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In the early morning hours of Tuesday, June 6, my mother-in-law, Dora Thornton Durham, passed away in her sleep.
She was 84 years old.
Dora was a character in every sense of the word and her larger-than-life personality was in complete and delightful contrast to almost incomprehensibly small frame. Dora suffered from COPD and the disease took its toll on her, to be sure, but the twinkle in her eye and the edge in her wit remained until the end.
Dora Thornton Durham and Little Black Cat, April 2015.
Compassionate, intelligent and engaged, Dora had a saying for almost any occasion and many of them were wise, indeed. She was a life-long educator (her most important student being HJ jr who she taught to read) who valued knowledge and character development and she shared many, many stories about the children she had taught throughout her career. Dora married a man whom she first dated because she thought he was Don Meredith, believed in flying saucers and tried to always see the positive in negative situations. She became more liberal in her thought and politics the older she got. She was funny as hell.
There are so many things about my mother-in-law I will miss, but I will always associate Dora with how much she loved animals.
As she lay in our home in during the last days of her life, Dora was not alone. The incredible Cinnamon Girl cared for her night and day, ably assisted by first year nursing student Sous Chef. HJ jr and I were around as well, and her son was by her side, too.
But I am not talking about the company she had from any of us. I am talking about our animals. We have cats and a dog and Dora loved them very, very much.
Dora shared many lovely “last words” with us when it was her time to go, but perhaps none were as precious as two directed at our animals.
As she was losing strength one afternoon, Dora saw our dog and lit up with a bright “Hi!” The wagging of the dog’s tail spoke for everyone.
Later that same day, our lovely Siamese cat Lulu crawled onto Dora’s bed. Dora looked down and said to her “soft.”
At that point, these words were an effort for her to form and they must have felt important to her.
I will cherish many memories of Dora, but, in particular, I’ll hold on to these two.
I did not have the luck to know Dora for a very long time , but I am blessed to have had 10 years with her.
I love her and I will miss her.