By Chanda Temple
It was good to see so many sorors and recall our time when we became “sisters” in DST. But one thing missing during our reunion was our No. 21, our tail dog, Lywanda Lynn Brown Barnes. She died in 2010, shortly after giving birth to her third child. Her death was a shock to us all. We loved her so.
As we planned our reunion earlier this year, there were discussions on how we’d remember Lynn. Would we release balloons, put flowers on her grave, include a tribute on our T-shirts, something else? It was decided that one of the things we’d do would be to put flowers on her grave. Sorors ordered a beautiful bouquet of red roses and violets, taking them to every event we attended that weekend. On the last day of our reunion, I volunteered to place the arrangement on her grave.
I thought that going to the cemetery would not be as hard as when I attended Lynn’s Omega Omega memorial service and her funeral six years ago, but I was wrong. As I pulled into the cemetery’s driveway, I took a deep breath and said, “Here we go.”
I parked my car and walked into the cemetery’s business office, where two women greeted me. I had to fill out a form, which asked for Lynn’s name and date of death. At first, I had to think of the date of death. Was it 2010 or 2011? It was hard to recall. My mind raced as I stood there in silence, pen to paper. Finally, I was able to recall she passed in 2010.
I completed the card and handed it to the receptionist. One of the women disappeared to the back, where she handed it to a guy to look up the plot. Deep sigh. This was getting real.
As I waited for the man to return with an answer, I surveyed the lobby, noticing they had plenty of pamphlets on planning a funeral. There were also grave markers – in silver or bronze – embedded in the wall. Personal opinion: the bronze markers looked better. But I digress. I looked around the area just to keep my mind busy. Then, my mind took me back to when I met Lynn. It was spring 1991 when we pledged Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
When I met Lynn, she was friendly from the start. She always had a joke for anything. She would imitate people and do funny walks as part of her storytelling. Her animated stories left you laughing so hard that sometimes you couldn’t breathe. When Lynn was around, everything seemed right with the world. You know she was funny because she laughed at herself, too, giving deep, hearty laughs that made you laugh even more. It was a wonderful cycle that so many of my line sisters and I were fortunate to experience.
As I recalled our times while in college and after graduation, my thoughts were interrupted by the appearance of a man with a map to show me where to find Lynn’s grave. In great detail, he explained how I could find it. Deep sigh. Again.
I thanked the man, got into my car and hit the winding path to her grave. The man’s description was on point. I found it without any problems. It was there, just like he said, beyond the second line of trees.
Lynn’s marker was muddy from earlier rains this fall. Wanting to clean it up, I returned to my car and grabbed a bottle of water from my gym bag. I also grabbed napkins from my glove compartment. As I poured water across her marker and wiped away the mud, my mind went back to Lynn. Her absence was still strong. I whispered, “Miss you.” Tears formed in my eyes as the sun beat down on my back. I thought of our times at Alabama, me holding her first daughter after she came home from the hospital, me serving as a hostess at her wedding, me helping plan her baby shower in 2010 and me sitting in a packed church with hundreds of others during her funeral.
And just as I put the floral arrangement atop her grave, a bright yellow butterfly appeared. It hovered above the flowers as though to check them out. I felt that was Lynn saying, ” Wow! These are pretty. Y’all went all out. Let me smell ’em and see if they’re real.” Remember, I told you Lynn had jokes. .
It was a poignant moment. Then, suddenly, I said, “Oh, I need to get a photo of this.” But before I could get my phone ready, the butterfly fluttered away just as quickly as it had appeared. Its presence put me at peace. I saw it as Lynn’s way of thanking me and the line for remembering her.
And that was Lynn. She left an impact on you no matter how long she was in your presence. Whether it was five seconds or five days, you were left a better person by just being around her.