Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Eat More Collards: A tribute to Aunt Jill

My aunt passed away at her home on December 1. She had two memorial services: one in eastern North Carolina, close to the farm where she was raised, and one on the Outer Banks, where she lived and taught English for 20 years. This is the piece I read at both services.

Jill Adams Morris

“I'm a collard-picking, collard-cooking, collard-eating farm girl,” Jill wrote several months ago. That statement is so perfectly Jill: both grounded and full of action all at once. As someone who crafted a life as rich with small pleasures as with big ones, she knew we’d always remember what a fantastic mother and wife she was, what a special daughter and sister and friend she was, what a good teacher she was, and what a valued community member she was. Those are the big things. Those collards, though, are what made Jill, Jill.

And so while we’re eating our collards in her honor, we can recall some other moments that she embodied. Jill was a rocking porch swing, a belly-shaking laugh. She was arms reaching out to kiss her husband and hug her daughters and rub a dog, legs that took her to down to the beach and all around the farm, and hands that created music, that made quilts, that grew beautiful flowers.

Jill was joy.  She was about doing what you love.  She was so much fun.  And she was so, so brave.

When we search for Jill’s joy in our own lives, we can picture her windsurfing on the sound, gliding over the water, strong and full of life. We can recall her being chief storyteller wherever she went, rocking with laughter and lighting up everyone around her. We can laugh about her Ocracoke accent impression, which she did better than anyone. We can remember her pregnant with Sophie and walking up and down the beach in a pink maternity bikini, trying to convince her to come out already so the fun could begin. We can see her taking Sally for her first tractor ride, teaching Sophie to play the piano, going on adventures with Anna and Carter, and relaxing on the farm with Bob.

When we think about doing what we love, we can remember how much Jill loved books and words, and how she spent her career helping students love them, too. We can think about the quilts she made and gave to loved ones, the dresses and curtains and everything under the sun that she sewed with care and skill. We can think about her love of music and all the ways she expressed it. We can treasure how Jill represented the glory in small pleasures that can rival even the greatest things: an engrossing novel you couldn't put down if you tried, a gorgeous day outside, the perfect lily, a wry pun and witty play on words, and yes, that pot of collards that tastes like home.

Life was just more fun with Jill. She was fond of saying “The blessings are more bountiful than the burdens,” and she crafted a life full of things that made her smile. That attitude is what she’d want us to carry forward: Be grateful. Be kind. Laugh. Do what you love. Eat more collards. And also, be brave.

Because when we think of bravery, each one of us will always think of Jill first, and remember how valiantly she fought her illness. She was full of grace, brimming with humor, and always stayed true to herself. She was Jill Adams Morris, a “collard-picking, collard-cooking, collard-eating farm girl,” and led by her daughters and her husband, her spirit will be carried forward forever.


  1. this is beautiful, maggie. you've described your aunt wonderfully, and i'm sure the legacy she's left will now be lived through her family and friends.

  2. Maggie, my thoughts are with you and your family during this difficult time.

    This is absolutely beautiful.

  3. Beautifully written and straight from the heart - I'm sure your words were a comfort and a joy to all that attended. xoxo

  4. What a wonderful tribute to your Aunt. Maggie, your words are so touching and remarkably written. What a special, special lady she was. You will help her spirit live on. My thoughts and prayers with you and your family. xoxo

  5. So very beautiful, Maggie. I believe her legacy will live on through you, too. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

  6. These kinds of pieces are the hardest to write and hardest to deliver, but the ones that everyone always remembers. Yours is beautiful, Maggie.

  7. Beautiful, Maggie. Everyone will remember this.

    I am so sorry.

  8. Wonderfully written Maggie. Your love shines through your words, as does the truth that your Aunt Jill was a remarkable woman.

  9. This is such a beautiful tribute Maggie. It makes me want to know your aunt- which is the best type of eulogy of all.

  10. This is lovely Maggie.

    And as an aside, your cousins could be models. SO pretty.

  11. Tearing up over here, M. What a beautiful tribute. My thoughts are with you and your family, so sorry for your loss. ((Hugs))

  12. What a beautiful tribute to your aunt.

    I love her saying about burdens and blessings! I may have my new motto!

  13. this is absolutely beautiful.

    and your family is gorgeous.

  14. Absolutely beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing it.


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