Wednesday, January 23, 2013


    I shall rely on the words of Eleanor Roosevelt who said: “You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”
I want to thank each of you for being here to join us in celebrating the life of Sylvia Joyce Nichols Allen.  Sylvia was a very special person who touched and enriched many lives.  I would like to share some of my memories of Sylvia through the years.
I was 5 ½ years old when we brought my baby sister Sylvia home from the hospital.  Our mother was so thrilled to have a red-haired daughter that we had to stop in Enosburg to let Dr. and Mrs. Judd see it for themselves. That beautiful red hair had come from our grandmother, Harriet May Leach Eldred.  When we were children, the 5 ½ year gap in our ages seemed quite significant.  Sylvia was my “little” sister.  I remember her as being very sweet and loving, but also very serious-minded.  I think she was a deep-thinker early on – you know, Sylvia the scholar.  Her favorite activity was reading.  We wore out the road between the farm and the library in Enosburg – a fifteen-mile round trip.  When Sylvia had run out of books to read in the children’s section of the library, Dad got special permission for her to check out books from the adult section.  She probably read all of those too.
One of our earliest adventures that I recall quite vividly was in the summer of 1952.  Our mother put the two of us on a train in Richford for a trip to Maine where we spent a week with our Aunt Edna and Uncle Al.  Can you imagine being 11 years old and
making a trip like that with your 5 ½ year old sister?  But Sylvia was very easy to take care of.  She didn’t ask for a lot and she was very well-behaved. 
If I had to use one word to personify my sister, it would be PERSEVERANCE.  Whatever obstacles life placed in her path, she persevered her way over, under, around or through them.  Whatever it took, she met those challenges head-on, rarely complaining and never feeling sorry for herself.  Did you know that Sylvia once stopped a train?  It was snowing heavily and visibility was limited when she came to an “intersection”.  The light she saw far down to her right was not an automobile as she thought, and she didn’t make it over the tracks before being impacted by a train.  She was dragged 400 feet or so down the tracks before the train came to a complete stop.  She escaped without any serious injuries.  When she called me to tell me about it, she said “I had an accident with a train.  The good news is that the train and I survived; the bad news is that my car didn’t.”  That was Sylvia!  She faced two bouts of breast cancer, three bouts with skin cancer, and her last battle with lung cancer with that same tenacious strength.
I have always been very proud of my sister.  We shared many adventures together as grown-ups.  After graduating from Enosburg Falls High School, Sylvia joined us in South Carolina where she completed her freshman year at Clemson University.  Later, she spent two years with us in Norfolk, Virginia while working at the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters.  My daughter Karen permanently bonded with her Aunt Sylvia during that time.  Since Karen was an only child, Sylvia seemed more like a big sister and a 2nd mother all rolled into one.  In many ways, Karen followed in Sylvia’s footsteps.  I told Sylvia many times that, if I didn’t know better, I’d swear that she had given birth to Karen.
We had other sister-bonding adventures as well.  We went on a river rafting trip together down the San Juan River in Utah.  Just two weeks later, we were back in Vermont for her wedding with Mich.  More recently, we made two trips to England and Scotland with my choir from Christ and St. Luke’s Church in Norfolk, Va. and a trip to Ireland with the Bella Voce Women’s Chorus of Vermont.  I’m so glad that the 5 ½ year age-gap had become insignificant for us as adults.  I thank God for my wonderful sister and I’m so grateful that she had her soul-mate Mich to share the last 25 years of her life’s journey with her.  There is a saying that “death leaves a heartache no one can heal, but love leaves memories no one can steal”.  (Anon)

I’d like to share a poem titled “I’m Free”. (Anon)  Think of Sylvia saying these words to us.

“Don’t grieve for me, for now I’m free. I’m following the path God laid you see. I took his hand when I heard him call.  I turned my back and left it all.  I could not stay another day – to laugh, to love, to work or play. … My life’s been full, I savored much.  Good friends, good times, a loved one’s touch.  Perhaps my
time seemed all too brief.  Don’t lengthen it now with undue grief.  Lift up your hearts and peace to thee.  God wanted me now.  He set me free.”

So, in the words of a song called “FLY”, we say to Sylvia:
           “Fly, fly precious one
Your endless journey has begun
Take your gentle happiness
Far too beautiful for this
Cross over to the other shore
There is peace forevermore
Until we meet
Fly, fly do not fear
Don’t waste a breath, don’t shed a tear
Your heart is pure, your soul is free
Be on your way, don’t wait for me
Above the universe you’ll climb
On beyond the hands of time
The moon will rise, the sun will set
But I won’t forget.”  (We won’t forget.)
                                                 Mary Louise Nichols Stanley

Memories of my Aunt Sylvia

 Sylvia Nichols Allen   (1-14-47 to 1-09-13)

If it is possible to have a second mother, Aunt Sylvia was mine.  She has been part of the fabric of my life since I was born.  At every stage of my development, no matter how geographically distant, she has been there for me, a guiding force and a supportive mentor.
Aunt Sylvia came to live with us in Norfolk when I was just a young child.  I remember uncrossing her legs, telling her to “keep her teeth open” when she wasn’t smiling, and sitting with her while she read to me.   Her love for reading infected me at an early age, and we bonded over books throughout my life.

When Aunt Sylvia returned to Vermont, I soon learned from her that “real women drive tractors”. She used to drive me around the farm on the tractor, take me to the covered bridge swimming hole down the road, along with my mother and Uncle David, and take me to the chicken coop so I could excitedly put my hand under each chicken to see if the magical process of laying an egg had occurred.   Occasionally, a chicken was not particularly thrilled to be disturbed on her nest, and I was sternly pecked.  We usually visited the farm every year, and I looked forward to eating fresh, homemade bread, running around the farm, and visiting with my aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

When I nearly drowned in a swimming hole in Bristol, Aunt Sylvia was the one who yanked me to safety and tended my scratches.  When I swam in Lake Champlain and found myself covered with leeches, Aunt Sylvia and my mother removed them while I screamed in horror.
Even in my moody, disaffected adolescence, I treasured my time with Aunt Sylvia.  I remember trips to Vermont, time spent with her, a day trip to Montreal.
As a young adult, Aunt Sylvia and I developed a more mature bond.  She had always treated me as an important person in my own right, but we were able to discuss relationships, love, adulthood, careers.  I brought my first significant boyfriend to Vermont and stayed at her house in Montpelier.  She was gracious in accepting Jeff for the person he was, given that he was a free-spirited hippie who was happy to sit on the railroad tracks and play his guitar.  I had developed a love for cooking, and for vegetarianism, and she graciously allowed me to make a mess of her kitchen as I concocted hummus and tabouli.  She and Mich took us to Camel’s Hump, and she never complained, though her knees were squawking all the way down.
I became engaged to my husband about the time she married my Uncle Mich.  Redmond and I came to her wedding, and I was thrilled that she seemed to have finally found her perfect match.  The love and respect they showed to one another was obvious to all of us.
Over the next several years, there were many changes to my life.  I lived in Montana and married Redmond.  He and I returned back east, and we spent the summer in Vermont living in the barn apartment on the farm.  He worked for my Uncle David that summer, and learned how to clean the troughs, and to harvest hay.  We spent a lot of time with Aunt Sylvia and Uncle Mich, and Redmond grew to think of my Vermont relatives as his family.  I became a librarian, inspired by her own career, and she took a great interest in my career as it developed.

When my daughter Sadie was born, I so looked forward to Aunt Sylvia being a presence in her life, as she was in mine.  Sylvia came down when Sadie was only a few months to spend a week watching her, after I returned to work.  We took several trips to Vermont, over the next few years, and Sylvia and Mich came along with my family and mother on a cruise to the Bahamas.  Sadie took to her Great-Aunt right away, and treated her like another grandmother.  I remember going to Shelburne Farms, and to the Shelburne Museum, and to the islands in Lake Champlain.  I have pictures of Aunt Sylvia and Sadie holding chickens, much as she and I once did.
Over the past few years, my life has had some turbulence.  No matter what I told her, she was patient and non-judgmental.  We spent many hours on the phone, and she gave me priceless advice and guidance.   When her cancer returned, I prayed for the best.  No matter how painful the treatment, she never complained, and maintained a sense of acceptance, and humor about her condition.   I can only hope that when it is my time, I can face death with the grace that she did.   I spoke to her on the phone shortly after Christmas.  She was exhausted, and I kept the conversation short.  The last thing she said to me was that she wanted to speak again soon so that we could have a real heart to heart and talk about some of the challenges I was facing, and that she regretted that she was so tired and foggy.  Sadly, that day never came.  She shortly thereafter was hospitalized, and moved into hospice.   When my mother and I heard the news, we made hasty plans to fly to Vermont.  I could not imagine not having the opportunity to see her one last time.   Though my heart was broken, it was cathartic and beautiful to see that she was at peace, that she was in good care at Vermont Respite House, and that she was surrounded by those who loved her. There was scarcely a moment when someone was not holding her hand.  We played her favorite music, read poetry to her, and talked to her about our favorite memories of her.   It was an affirming and healing process, and I will always be grateful that I was able to sit by her bedside and tell her how much I love her and how important she was in my life.
Sylvia was an amazing woman, who enriched the lives of everyone who knew her.   As she didn’t have any children of her own, she was able to “mother” the young people around her; her many nieces and nephews, her students, and her support and concern have helped so many navigate around the many lumps and challenges we have faced.  She was balanced, centered, and persistent.  She knew what she wanted from life, and she never was paralyzed by self-doubts.  No matter what challenges she faced, she “just did”.  She serves as a shining example to me of how I wish to live my own life.  Though I am grieving, I am also celebrating the life of a woman who lived every day to its fullest.  Thank you, Sylvia, for being a beacon of light for so many.  I will never forget you.
Karen Stanley Grigg

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!!!


Click on the above link to see some Christmas pictures!!!

Monday, November 09, 2009

No, I haven't abandoned this blog!!!

Well, folks, I have probably set a new record in the time lapse between blog entries. Most of my friends and relatives have moved over to Facebook, and to be honest, Facebook is a much easier format for me in terms of uploading and resizing my pictures. It takes me over an hour to do each blog entry here, as my camera creates huge files, and I have to resize all my pictures by hand. However, I realize that there are a lot of folks who still don't use Facebook, so I'll try to post the cream of the crop here and link to my public Facebook albums so you all can see the rest.

A few weeks ago, we celebrated Sadie's fourth birthday at Spence's Educational Farm in Chapel Hill. The kids all picked vegetables in the garden, fed the chickens and goats, and rode ponies. The weather was cooperative, and everyone seemed to enjoy the party. Here is a link to Sadie's birthday party pictures:

Birthday pictures

And here are a couple of highlights:

Sadie getting ready to take a pony ride...

Sadie and me walking around the farm. On our left is Charlie, Jen and Molly, and Siobhan and Reilly are on my right.

Redmond and me.

I've also compiled an album with some assorted pictures from September and October.

Random pictures

Here are a couple of highlights.

This picture was actually just taken this weekend. Sadie got a "grow a rubber duckie" gift for her birthday, and it hatched from an egg and grew to be pretty large. She's holding it proudly.

Sadie, on one of her rare "princess" occasions. Actually, she has been dressing up all "girly" more often lately. She is a pretty even mixture of tomboy and girl.

Sadie at the NC Zoo, posing with her head hanging out of a giant "beehive". As you can see, she was getting a little sullen by this point. She's pretty much given up the afternoon nap on weekends, but she probably could still use one, as she often gets cranky around 3 or 4.

Posing with her Mee-Maw at the zoo.

Pretending to be Spiderman on the playground "web".

Redmond and I are kept busy working and chasing the Boo. I find that I'm far busier than I ever dreamed I'd be as a working parent. The days and nights are a complete whirlwind. What keeps me sane is knowing that we can all slow down a little on the weekends and take the time to spend quality family time together. I still wish my house was a little cleaner, but I still tend to choose seeing the world with the family over having a sparkly clean house and no life experiences. One day, Sadie will prefer to hang out with her friends to spending time with her boring old Mom and Dad, so I'm soaking up all this family time while she still likes us. ;-) When she gets older, I'll have all the time in the world to clean the house, though I'll most likely find another excuse to avoid doing it...

Redmond and I are still plugging away at Weight Watchers. I've lost 50 pounds so far, and Redmond's really starting to dig in and lose weight himself. I feel so much better, and I'm actually daring to post pictures of myself these days. I'm hoping to lose about 50-60 more, and then the hard work of maintenance will begin. I know how to lose weight and gain weight, but I've never figured out the trick of how to maintain weight.

We're planning a trip to Bladenboro for Thanksgiving to see my paternal relatives, some of whom I have not seen in over 10 years. I'll try to make sure I post pictures from this trip as soon as I return.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

My little princess...

As if...

Sadie sports her brand new Spiderman costume...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Beach Week 2009

We're back! What a relaxing week at the beach... Our group continues to spawn new members. Rachel and Danny have a brand new baby, Walter. Brian and Missy had a baby 8 months ago, Josie. A new family joined us; Sean, Siobhan and their daughter Reilly. We missed James, Emily, Pippa and Rowan this year. How dare they decide that northern Maine is just too far away from NC! ;-)

Before I get so bogged down by routine that I forget, here are a few of the photos from our beach trip this year. I have also linked to the rest of the pictures and videos in our Picasa Web album at the bottom of the entry...

Sadie + blueberry cobbler = a mess.

Sadie saw Alex riding on the back of Josh's kayak and had to do it herself...

Ft. Fisher Aquarium...
Handstand Sadie

I swear, I've never seen a toy more popular than this bucket!

Tree climbing at a Surf City park...

Lila grinning
Sadie being Daddy's girl...

Here is the
Full album of pictures and videos from the beach...

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Vermont pictures and film clips!

It's been a long time since I've been able to post any blog entries... I have no excuses- it's something I mean to do almost every day and then I just end up getting bogged down by my daily activities.

We recently had a glorious week in Vermont, visiting my Aunt Sylvia, Uncle Mich, Aunt Diane, Uncle David and cousin Kristy. Sadie was obsessed with swimming, so we swam at least once every day that week. We spent time on the farm, visited the Shelburne Museum and Shelburne Farms, and took ferry rides. Basically, we had about the same schedule we followed last year. Unfortunately, because Uncle David was recovering from an illness and Kristy had surgery that week, we only were able to see the Nichols family once.

Next year, we're hoping to take the camper up and stay in a nearby state park, rather than in a hotel room. We want to make sure we're getting our money's worth!

Next week is our annual beach week on Topsail Island.

A couple of pictures...

Beautiful view of an island in the middle of Lake Champlain...

Sadie, "driving a tractor"...

Redmond, Sadie and Aunt Sylvia enjoy the tractor ride to Shelburne Farms...
Sadie snuggles with Aunt Sylvia...

Sadie continues with the tractor meme...
On a ferry ride...

Sitting peacefully (yes, that's rare!) at the Shelburne Museum...
High in the sky, bungee trampolining!

You can see all our photos on our Facebook photo album.

Here are some videos...

At Shelburne Farms, the chickens are about as free-range as a chicken can be. Sadie kept trying to feed the chickens her picnic lunch...

Sadie got to help milk the cow...

Uncle David and Aunt Diane saved the egg gathering on the Nichols Farm until we arrived... Sadie had a blast finding all the eggs....

Here are a couple of short clips from our visit to Stowe. Sadie tried the bungee trampoline, and went back several times for more!

And here she is pretending to fly her Uncle David's ultralight plane...

One challenge we've been facing lately is that Sadie insists on dressing herself. And she doesn't want to wear anything "pretty". She wants to look "cool". This means she wants to wear Spiderman t-shirts every day, and shorts without "flowers". I have no idea if this is just a phase or not, but my days of winning large Gymboree auctions on Ebay appear to be over, if only temporary. I can no longer just buy clothes for her.

I'll upload the beach pictures next week!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

open range hours