Friday, January 11, 2013

The Taylor Cheer, Or Why I Blog By Pat Kinsella Herdeg, With Help From Family Members

Pat and Fred--1976

The spring of my senior year in high school was a pivotal time in shaping who I am today. I just did not see it at the time.

It was 1976 in West Irondequoit, NY, a northern suburb of Rochester, NY which hugged the shores of Lake Ontario. At age 18, I was the oldest of the Kinsella children still living at home. The wonderful large, old house on St. Paul Boulevard held Mom and Dad, Tom, Beth, Jim, Chris and me. Our faithful black and white mongrel of a dog, Corky, and Fred the white fighting cat with Siamese markings, were also members of our family.

Tim and Rose were to be married on July 3rd, 1976. Since this was the Bicentennial of America, I had helpfully told Rose that if she dressed the bridesmaids in red, white and blue flag dresses, the newspapers would have to splash her wedding across the front pages. She did not take my advice. But, we so looked forward to that wedding!

Then, in early springtime, Mom went into the hospital to have surgery for colon cancer. I should have been more scared for her, but with the false surety of youth, I KNEW she would get better. Beth remembers that during the operation, Mom heard “Oh, this looks bad. We are going to lose her.” Once Mom was fully awake and could respond, she piped up in great irritation, "I have eight kids. I am NOT going anywhere." Now THAT is my Mom!

Mom was inundated with cards and food and good wishes from friends and family. The mailman seemed to arrive daily with a stoop, straightened fully by the time he had dropped off all of the cards for Mom.

Mom was getting better. Life for a high school senior about to graduate was getting back to normal.

In late April, it was Men’s Weekend at Otty Lake, so all of the men, including Dad and my brothers and 
Uncle Dick Lochner and his sons, were in Canada at our cottage. Aunt Esther was on her way over to our house as it was only the girls left in Rochester.  She was late, and then Mom got a call from the State Police; Aunt Esther had had a stroke and been in a car accident and was taken to the hospital.

Aunt Esther

Mom and Aunt Joanie (Uncle Dick’s sister whom the State Police had also called) drove straight to the hospital, and I attempted to reach the Otty Lake crew. When Uncle Dick was finally told, he and all the Lochner boys rushed home. In fact, they deliberately drove way over the speed limit as they raced down Route 81, hoping for a Police escort, but no luck.

Mom seemed to live at the hospital. On Tuesday, April 27th, our much beloved, compassionate, and beautiful Aunt Esther died.

Friday the 30th of April was Aunt Esther’s funeral. At the funeral, Uncle Dick, remembering that Esther had loved a singer at a recent wedding singing ‘How Great Thou Art’ asked that singer to sing the hymn at her funeral. I remember the funeral was packed with family, cousins, friends --we were all in shock that this could happen. Aunt Esther was taken from us much too young.

Aunt Esther and Uncle Dick, 1972

The next day was Charlie Hawkes’ and Mary Ann Cannon’s wedding in Lockport, NY. 
We all ached for Aunt Doris—she had just buried a sister and now her son was getting married the very
next day. After Aunt Esther’s funeral— everyone gathered back in the Lochner’s kitchen. While we ate and talked and cried, everyone wrestled with the difficult emotions of tragedy and celebration colliding. We decided we would all go to Charlie and Mary's wedding as a way to support Aunt Doris. Then everyone from her side of the family would be in a similar situation, so happy for the wedding couple while still grieving for Aunt Esther, and that would give some comfort to Aunt Doris, knowing she would be held by others who knew the enormity of how she was feeling.
And, so, everyone who had been at Aunt Esther’s funeral, including Uncle Dick and his sister Aunt Joanie, and Gladys and Sylva Howland, first cousins who had come for Esther’s funeral, also went to the wedding--support for Aunt Doris, support for the Lochners, and support for each other. All generations changed from the dark clothes of the day before to bright cheery clothes. 

 I remember the wedding as a joyful time but still sorrowful, surrounded by young and old in the family--the same people we had just cried with the day before sitting again in church pews, but this time, in happiness and hope in a Lockport, NY church. Then, when one of the singers began singing ‘How Great Thou Art’ for Charlie and Mary, everyone who had just heard it sung at the funeral the day before dissolved into tears.

Charlie Hawkes and Mary Cannon Hawkes

At the reception, we danced on the dance floor. Out of nowhere seemed to burst a spontaneous circle of cousins—‘Give me a T, Give me an A, Give me a Y, Give me an L, Give me an O, Give me an R. What does it spell? TAYLOR! What does it spell? TAYLOR!’ Who led the cheer? In my mind, it was me. But, it was a long time ago and I could be changing memories. A few more rousing times with the cheer and we felt some of our emotions lifting from us.

And so the Taylor Cheer was born. Looking back, we so needed a chance to cheer and dance and yell—to say that yes, we were still here (holding Aunt Esther in our hearts) and yes, we were here TOGETHER. It was so powerful and life affirming after the day before.

My sister Sue remembers that during the wedding and reception, there was an “enormously complex and 
deep range of emotions all roiling us at the same time, and it's that that resulted in the cathartic release of joy in family solidarity that was the Taylor Cheer. I remember it as a very powerful experience, and one that made me feel proud to be in the midst of this messy, crazy, hurting, loving family.”
 Taylor Cheer at Tim and Rose's Wedding, July 1976

Andy Hay and Pat Kinsella, July 1976

It is not every day that modern life so pointedly shows you how precious life can be—the funeral of such a beloved aunt on Friday, and the wedding of a zany but also beloved cousin the next day. The singing of ‘How Great Thou Art’ at both the funeral and the wedding? More than coincidence.

Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works thy hand hath made,
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed;

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

Perhaps it was God’s way of saying ‘Pay attention! You are all in this together!’ Through it all, the same family there to support, to grieve, to celebrate as one.

The Taylor Cheer was again on display that July at Tim and Rose’s wedding, and as I remember, for many weddings after.

I was recently telling my cousin Ted Lochner that I was going to the funeral of Glenn’s cousin in Delaware—again, a cousin who died far too young. Over the phone line I could hear Ted’s booming and joyful voice “Family Reunion Time!”

 I answered, “I know! But Glenn’s family doesn’t see it that way. Most of them are not coming.”
Ted got quiet for a moment and then said, “Pat, that is ONE thing we have learned, haven’t we? We’re all in this together.”

Many of you wonder why I keep doing this blog. I think it had a lot to do with that spring of 1976. Over the years, I felt like I lost track of many of you—my fault totally as I lived my life. But, now, I want you back. I do know how important family is, whether we are siblings or fourth cousins once removed.

I can still see us more than thirty-five years ago-- twirling, shouting, cheering and collapsing into a huge cousins’ hug on the dance floor. In my mind’s eye, we are doing the Taylor Cheer, we are doing the Baker Cheer, and as we finish with a great flourish and hug, we are surrounded by other, mostly unseen, cousins and grandparents, aunts and uncles, gone now but still supporting, still guiding, still loving us. It is their stories, as well as all of ours, that I hope to keep telling on this cousins blog.

Love you all.

Pat Kinsella Herdeg, 2012


Mom/Aunt CB said...

If anyone can read this without shedding a tear -well pass me a kleenex!
As the ups and downs of life occur, its our "togetherness" that keeps us sane. Esther's death was one of the hardest events I have ever gone thru. I lived thru it because of Family!

Kathryn said...

"A tear"??!! I did not use kleenex - I used the sleeve of my sweatshirt to absorb the tears. It is stronger and holds more.

I never wonder why you do this site. Instead, I am super grateful that you do. I live in Ohio and I do not get back to see family much. This site keeps me connected as much as facebook does. I have found out important family news here.

Pat, I appreciate all the work you do here and I appreciate you very much.

I love you lots!!!!

Kathryn said...

to CB-
I think I know what you mean about Esther's death being one of the hardest things. When Chic died I felt like someone cut a hole in my heart. While time sort of dulls the pain, it does not go away. Gail and I are a lot closer now - family ties are a good thing.

I always loved how close you and my Mother were. It was so considerate of your Mothers to have their daughters so close together.

I love you lots too.

Mom/ Aunt CB said...

I should explain that before Esther died Our mother had been killed crossing the street in front of her home. The magnitude of her death, the manner of it, the suddeness, left us All befuddled! We clung together and got thru it. That is the togetherness I drew on when Esther died. When I walked into that Emergency and realized there was no turn around for her and I had to get hold of her family imediately -- well THAT is the moment I drew on the whole familyness! It is always there!
Kathryn, you are right to move closer to siblings!! Love you ALL

Dad/Jack said...

Paat, a beauiful story. One that should be known by all the cousins and now, thanks to you WILL BE

Pat said...

Thanks to all! As I said, it is so difficult to put into words all of the emotions of that spring from so long ago.

I do feel surrounded by all of my cousins and can't wait for more elderberry pie at the next Reunion!


Susan Kinsella said...

Pat, I have long been intrigued by the holes in life left when people die much too early. Often those holes last for decades, and sometimes into new generations. It's not only the loss of that person that leaves people so bereft, but also the good they would have done, the guidance they would have given, the "holding together" they would have offered. It's like when a stitch comes out in a sweater - it can create a larger unraveling because we all, ultimately, are connected.

Sometimes their loss motivates people to dedicate themselves to a positive focus. But often it seems that their loss knocks the world off center for many people close to them, and that may echo for a long, long time.

I think what you did with the Taylor Cheer was to help give us something to hold on to when the world was wobbling badly. It didn't right everything - it couldn't - but it gave a solid place to hang on to, which can be a precious help in lost times.

Blessings to you, Love you,

Anonymous said...

Thank You Pat for this beautiful story-I cried buckets-I had a situation something like this in my own family-my grandfather died 3 days before my brother Ken's wedding. The whole family of course went to the wedding one day and funeral the next. Everyone rallied around my brother,decided the wedding could not be changed. It brought back all kinds of memories-Esther, Dick and little Teddy. They use to stay here with us when I was first married,I so enjoyed their visits.Thinking of Wendell, my brother Ken, my parents ,my grandfather, Grandma Lil, Chic, Aunt Gladys,Phyllis,Sylva,Leona and your Grandma Ethel who I had met just a couple of times and all of the rest of the Taylor Clan who have gone on to that glorious place called heaven - all wonderful people. Every one I have mentioned are now watching over us- I Thank you for sharing.I appreciate so much all the work you do for the family blog. Love Joyce

Julie said...

Pat, that was a well-done recollection of the days surrounding my Mother's death. It was such a painful time for everyone, least of all her own children. I was living in California at the time when Aunt CB called to deliver the news. I remember her saying to me that she had some sad news, and afterwards her concern was that I find someone to be with. My first phone call was to my best friend, Judy, then to Marylu Taylor who was still living in California at the time. I believe Marylu came and spent the night with me. The next day two other friends, Fran and JJ, arrived to drive me to the airport for the long flight home. My friends held me in their arms till I could get home, and just in time because I went right to the hospital and spent most of the day and night with Mom. She never did regain consciousness. Eventually I went home to try to sleep and she passed shortly thereafter. The hardest thing was losing her when she was so young and so was I. She was only 54; I was 23 and just beginning to understand all the years of discipline and how hard it must have been raising a daughter who thought she knew so much about life when I really didn't know squat. Mom was not just my mother, but she was becoming my friend and confidant, and then she was taken away. All of her children felt that loss as well. It seemed so unfair. And to this day, I miss her terribly. I can and I do tell people to love and respect their parents because you only have one set of them and just one chance.

Thanks so much to everyone who commented on this, and again to you, Pat, for bringing this family full-circle.

Tim Kinsella said...

Pat, what a wonderful account. The story and pictures bring back a lot of memories, good and bad.

Ted Lochner said...


I do not spend very much time on the internet anymore including checking email. Out of 791 emails, I just deleted all but 18!! the rest were junk!! Luckily, I spend more time at the gym now!

I just caught up your most recent entries and came to this story which has caused a puddle of tears to soak my keyboard!

Obviously, these memories are extremely powerful even 35 years later.

Between the two of us, Judy's Mom was our last parent left and she passed away recently, coincidentally,also due to stroke. Speaking with Julie, she commented that Judy now joins us as "orphans".

Attending the funeral of Judy's Mom, Mary, I commented to Judy's siblings how lucky they were to have many more years of life with their mother. Judy is also the youngest of her family. Judy had 49 years growing up with her Mom compared to my 13 years growing up with my mother! Think about that for a moment...Judy has had nearly 4 times more time with her Mom than I had and her siblings had even more!

These memories that are stirred up with this blog are a fantastic mental health benefit to us all including laughing and crying often times through the same story.

Thank you, cousin!

Ted Lochner

Pat said...

Ted and Julie,

Thank you for commenting on this story-- I wanted to write it in a way that was not overly painful for you.

So Sorry Ted, that your Judy is now part of the 'orphans club', a club no one wants to be in but most of us will be.

I never thought about the mental health benefits of this blog, but you are right about the laughing and crying all at the same time. Families do that to you!

Love you all,