Groveland, MA. — Elizabeth “Bette” Louise (Stouppe) Smales, 87, of Groveland, Mass., passed on on August 3, 2013, in Merrimac Valley Hospice, Haverhill, Mass., with her family by her side. Born in Little Rock, Ark., to the late Beatrice and Robert Stouppe. She is survived by her husband of 67 years, Robert T. Smales Sr., of Groveland; three children, R. Thomas Smales Jr. and his wife, Kathleen, of Salem, Mass.; Stacia Nancie (Smales) Hill and her husband, Robert Hill of London, England, and Alison (Smales) Pinkava and her husband, SSG Harold Pinkava U.S. Army, of Ft. Sill, Okla.; three brothers, Robert of DeLand, Fla., Hugh of Chelmsford, Mass., and David Stouppe of Hendersonville, N.C.; a sister-in-law, Sylvia Rivard of Sandown, N.H.; 12 grandchildren and stepgrandchildren; eight great-grandchildren and great -stepgrandchildren, all scattered around the world; and many stepcousins, nieces and nephews.
Prior to moving to Nichols Village in Groveland four years ago, Bob and Bette lived in Topsfield, Mass., for 42 years, and Stoughton, Mass., for 15 years before that. During this time, Bette was involved as a volunteer secretary in the Stoughton Congregational Church, secretary at Flying Horse Stables, Hamilton, a volunteer in the Hamilton-Wenham Community Center for many years, as well as volunteer scorekeeper at Groton House Farm Horse Trials in Hamilton.
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This is my grandmother. This was her life.
We gathered this afternoon to celebrate that life and to say goodbye. Such a long life she had, so many things she did, people whose lives she’d touched; the turnout was good. A crowd of people milling about, mingling, talking and laughing. I drifted from group to group in the throng, seeing family and friends, people I did not know, all talking about this woman who had touched all of our lives.
“Remember when …”
“What about that time …”
“Hey, did you know...”
Most of the seats were empty, people preferring the milling and mixing, but I saw one of my aunts sitting alone in the front row, keeping an eye on her mother. Keeping her company. I sat down beside her and we spoke for a few minutes. We did the ‘How are you doing’, the ‘How have you been’ and the ‘How is such-and-such holding up’. Fine, fine, fine.
Remember when. What about the time. Hey, did you know.
My aunt was called away and I was left alone in the front row. It was my turn to watch Grammy, my turn to keep her company. No one asked me, no one tasked me: something in me simply wanted to make sure this woman I loved wasn’t left alone in the gathering. It doesn’t make sense, and I can’t explain it, but I sat and watched as people came by to pay their respects and to say goodbye, then moved off to join the others in Remember when.
My sister came by to hand me a tissue, smiling and lightly mocking.
“You might need this, what with you being one of those sensitive Smales men.”
I put the tissue in my pocket. I didn’t need it. I was thinking about Grammy’s life, the people she touched, the things she did, and I was fine. I usually am.
Remember when. What about that time. Hey, did you know.
The service was held, and the house was packed. Standing room only, I kid you not. Extra chairs were brought in for those of us who’d moved out of the seating to make way for the rest. Prayers were read. My grandfather spoke, moved by the sheer amount of people who were there. People cried. I did not.
The service ended and the attendees filed out, saying a last goodbye to Grammy as they passed. When my turn came I stepped around the kneeling bench (I’ve never been one for much prayer), touched her hair and kissed her forehead, smooth and cold. We all waited as Grampy had a private word with her, and some wept as he bent to give her one last kiss. I handed away that tissue from my pocket, glad I had it though I didn’t need it.
The reception was grand.
Many of us went back to Grampy’s house after the reception.
Then we went home, which is where I am now.
At home it’s not standing room only. At home there’s no ‘Remember when’. No ‘What about that time’. No ‘Hey, did you know’.
At home I remember my grandfather during my condolence call, sounding slightly lost and saying “I guess I’m going to be living alone for a while.”
At home I remember him standing in the parking lot after the service, making sure everyone got away alright, no one left behind, before getting into his car alone.
At home, getting ready for bed, I’m thinking of that last kiss. I’m picturing my grandfather lying in his own bed, at home, really alone again for the first time in 67 years. I’m wondering if he’s thinking of that last kiss too. I’d imagine he is.
And I am crying.
I love you, Grammy, and I'll miss you, but my sorrow is for those you left behind.
Talk to you later.