Big Bertha's Adventures

We were in the town of Okemah, Oklahoma for just a day

My friend Ginette and I made the 3 hour commute on Tuesday night.  My friend Tore got up at 4 am to make the same commute on Wednesday morning.  It was definitely still Winter weather in Oklahoma compared to Dallas.  That was a detail that hadn’t occurred to me when I packed my clothes.

When Tore arrived in Okemah, he met us at the local McDonald’s near the Days Inn motel.  We loaded up on sugar and caffeine before heading to the church.

Ginette had the foresight to wear teal—the color for Ovarian Cancer Awareness.  I regretted not thinking of that detail.  Instead I wore what I’m known for—polka dots, a hat and blue hair.

We arrived at the church in minutes.  We signed in and an usher found a place for the three of us to sit together.

There were lots of people—admittedly I didn’t see any familiar faces in the crowd as we settled in.  I imagined the faces to be family members and close friends from the area.  I was definitely happy to see how quickly the church filled up.   I wondered if Alana would have ever imagined a church packed with people all present to honor her and to support her family.

The church service had a beginning, a middle and an end.  Some memories of the day are best left unspoken.  What I can say—I did my very best to represent myself and the many friends that wanted to be there but weren’t able to attend.

Few people are very prepared with words to say to parents who have lost their daughter at such a young age.  30 years is too young.  I prayed for the right words—and somehow words came.  I was humbled that Alana’s mother and her sister recognized me.  We’ve never met—but I tend to be “that” person that posts all sorts of photos online for everyone to see.

After the service we got in our cars, formed a line and drove to the cemetery.  I noticed immediately all the cars and trucks that stopped on the road to let us pass by.  I’ve been to other funerals where there are policemen that stop traffic.  But it wasn’t necessary here.  There was even a 3-way stop that we approached and drove by without any difficulty. The town seemed to know.  It was sad but also beautiful to see the decency of people.

We even reached a long stretch of a 2 lane country road.  There wasn’t a lot of traffic but periodically as we drove by—we noticed the oncoming traffic—various trucks—that pulled over out of respect.  That made me happy.

We reached the cemetery—one of the biggest I’ve ever seen.  We said our final goodbye to our friend, Alana.

Afterwards we ate at Classic Diner.  My only regret was not wearing a poodle skirt.  Swing, jitterbug and rumba music played in this charming restaurant.  The waitress knew the family—Alana’s father has a veterinary clinic nearby.  The waitress told us she had to put her cat down recently at that clinic.

We finished our meal.  Is this a time to take photos?   Is it poor taste to capture memories?  I tend to document everything in life.  We decided to take photos.

Ginette and Denise
Ginette and Denise – photo taken by Tore Bellis


Ginette and Tore

We said our goodbye to Ginette before she made her trek back to Texas.  Tore and I decided to go on an adventure in the town of Okemah. Earlier that day I had spotted the perfect building that matched Tore’s suit.  I hoped to return and take a photo— and we did.

We were in the town of Okemah, Oklahoma for just a day

We were in the town of Okemah, Oklahoma for just a day

When I found out Tore was coming to the funeral I was relieved —and for a very strange reason.  I had planned on dancing a two-step in memory of Alana—and without a man, I figured I’d try to rally Ginette to be my dance partner.  Alana liked country western dancing —and it only seemed fitting that we honor her memory by dancing.  I think she’d find humor in it and would expect it from us.

As I’ve mentioned in other writings—Alana’s last ‘worry free’ dance with her friends was the day before she found out about her cancer.  It was for a 1930s danceathon on the Continental Avenue Pedestrian Bridge for the Trinity River Revel.

Tore and I finished our tour of Okemah then headed back to Texas.  It was along the way that I remembered I hadn’t danced a two-step.

Denise:  “Tore!  We cannot leave Oklahoma soil without dancing for Alana.  You have to stop somewhere.”

Fortunately, Tore remembered an interesting bridge from the drive in the early morning.  He stopped and parked near what looked like an unused bridge.  I grabbed my cameras and iPhone for music.

Still in open toe heels, I walked briskly on the gravel and excitedly approached the Calvin River Bridge.

Big Bertha's Adventures

We took photos and it wasn’t long before we had to get out of the way—cars were approaching to cross the bridge.

Big Bertha's Adventures

I’m sure we were a spectacle:  a man in a black suit and tie and a woman in a polka dot dress and heels… on a bridge.

Big Bertha's Adventures

Then a school bus approached and slowed down.  There clearly wasn’t enough room for the three of us on the bridge.  We got out of the way, smiled and waved.  The bus driver waved back at us.

Big Bertha's Adventures

Once the bridge was clear, we danced a two-step in memory of Alana.  I even let Tore turn me—and I managed to turn with success.  Alana liked to spin and turn – and Tore was happy to accommodate this request when he danced with her.

Satisfied with the two-step dance we wrapped up with the requisite Lindy Hop danced to Glenn Miller’s song, “In the Mood.”  I danced with gusto despite the circumstances that brought us there—I did it for Alana.

Big Bertha's Adventures
Photo taken by Tore


Now we could leave Oklahoma soil.

Date:  February 4, 2015
Cameras:  Canon G11, Big Bertha (Canon 5D Mark II), assorted camera phones.
Notes:  I debated on posting/sharing photos and writing.  But I write to remember.






7 thoughts on “We were in the town of Okemah, Oklahoma for just a day

  1. Alana was such a special person and a wonderful dancer. When she came home from Dallas, she would always talk about you and the others in her dance class. Thank you for being there for her while she was down there, and thank you for coming up to the funeral. She will be greatly missed.

  2. Very heartwarming. This made me smile through the tears. Alana was very blessed to have such caring friends.

  3. Alana will be greatly missed! My five year old, a fellow cancer fighter and friend of Alana, said it best….God needed another angel and he found the perfect one to help watch over all of her family and friends..(he just said us…:) ) and now her wings will make the wind! I am very sure he is one of the strongest people I know.
    Also Denise did you ever find another “program/booklet” from the service? I can mail you mine if you didn’t

    1. Dixie,
      I’m sorry for your loss.

      I did manage to acquire two extra programs. I wanted them for Alana’s friends here in Texas that weren’t able to attend the funeral. Thank you for the offer!

      And thank you for reading the blog and commenting.

Leave a Reply!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s