Forever in my heart

Funny stories convey friend’s real mission in life

Posted: February 4, 2018 at 1 a.m.

Courtesy photo The Little Queen loved Aunt Nancy, and Aunt Nancy loved her. Here's she's feeding Amanda cake at her birthday party.

"There are some times in life when the only thing you can do to cope is to laugh."

-- Advice from Pa

I could tell you funny stories about Nancy all day long.

I could tell you about her cutting my beautiful daughter Amanda's hair for the first time -- thank goodness, because our tiny 2-year-old had a mullet when we adopted her. I could also tell you how many brushes and combs and squirt bottles Nancy lost to Amanda -- anything to keep her still and happy until she finally understood haircuts. It only took five or six or maybe 10 years -- and a lot of bloodshed -- always Nancy's, never the Little Queen's.

I could tell you that Nancy also cut Amanda's dad's hair for the last time -- tying off the ponytail for later framing, so that he could still have hair if he decided he really needed it. Then she buzzed his head. That day, Amanda wouldn't go anywhere near Aunt Nancy. She wanted nothing to do with that particular hair style; she'd worked too hard on growing what she had!

I could tell you about the next to last time Nancy did my hair. Just as I sat down, the power went out. But I was going to a big thing that weekend that required me to feel confident, and Nancy knew it. So her husband Todd went and found one of those little headlamps you use to go caving or -- I don't know what else you do with them! -- and Nancy did my roots wearing it on her forehead. We laughed and laughed.

Or I could tell you about the boot I'm still looking for. Nancy was always there to help people pack and move, but she packed things in the holes she saw in boxes. The first boot was with the toaster, can opener, blender and vegetable steamer -- it was a soft boot and it kept things from rattling. Four years later, I still haven't found the other one -- because it could be literally anywhere!

But if you noticed, there's a common thread in all those stories. Nancy fixed things. She helped people. And doing hair was simply the means to that end. I could prove it by telling you about Miss Helen, a little old lady who came in for a shampoo and roller set every week for heaven knows how long. Week after week, Nancy went and picked Miss Helen up, brought her to the salon, did her hair and took her home. It wasn't about her hair; Miss Helen wasn't going out dancing. It was about the visit -- about getting out of the house, seeing people and being seen, hearing stories and telling them, getting hugs and giving them back.

Nancy was the best hugger I have ever known -- and a whole bunch of her friends and family took comfort in her arms over the years. She was living proof that joy shared is multiplied and sorrow shared is decreased. She taught all of us lessons in compassion and kindness and patience and resilience. She taught her cosmetology students to do hair, but she also taught them pride and self-confidence and professionalism. And they loved her for it.

She loved them. And me. And Amanda. And Dan. And pretty much everyone she met. But most of all, she loved her daughter. Meagan must have been 3 or 4 years old when Nancy and I became friends. Talk about the apple of mom's eye! She told me more than once that Meagan was her heart beating outside her body, and that was true right up until Meagan's daughter Hayley was born. Then her heart subdivided and beat in both of them. And then in Audrey, granddaughter No. 2. I know Nancy wasn't afraid to die. She believed absolutely in her Lord and Savior. But the idea of leaving her babies? I'm sure she didn't like that one little bit.

On the other hand, now she can keep an eye on all of us at once -- and she'll like that a lot. And she can do it at the same time that she's sitting in the sun in New Orleans, listening to classic rock, with a book in her lap and a hurricane in her hand.

The problem is ours. We can't spend time with her -- except in our hearts. It's not going to be enough. This particular hole is going to look huge, and it's going to take more than one pair of boots to fill it. But if we keep telling stories about her -- especially to Hayley and Audrey -- she'll still be part of our lives.

In the words of sci-fi author Terry Pratchett:

"No one is finally dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away, until the clock wound up winds down, until the wine she made has finished its ferment, until the crop they planted is harvested. The span of someone's life is only the core of their actual existence."

Nancy made a lot of really good ripples in our world. And in her memory, we can aspire to fix things, to help people, to keep those ripples spreading.

Nancy Guice Baker

Jan. 2, 1964-Jan. 23, 2018

I love you, sister!

NAN Profiles on 02/04/2018