Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Helen Elizabeth Houston Goff

Helen Elizabeth Houston Goff was born on February 6, 1920. She was married to my father's oldest brother, John Milton Goff. This post is solely for the purpose of remembering one of the finest ladies I have ever known.
Aunt Helen was perfect for riding shotgun to my Uncle Johnny. Neither of them ever met a stranger, nor did they ever meet a person they couldn't like. I cannot recall a time when I walked into a room occupied by Aunt Helen when she didn't greet me with, "I love you, Paula Kay. Where have you been?" I never left her presence that she didn't say, "I love you, Paula Kay. Come and see me."
Uncle Johnny died in April of 1972 when I was 13 years old. I have fond memories of him playing the guitar and singing. My parents always told me that Uncle Johnny and Aunt Helen traveled all over Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky singing in churches. I remember Aunt Helen's lilting alto, and I have to say that besides my father, Uncle Johnny and Aunt Helen were the first to encourage my love for music. Uncle Johnny used to lift me up onto the piano bench and say, "Now, sing, Paula Kay, just sing." That was when I was four years old.
I stayed with Uncle Johnny and Aunt Helen when my mom's father was in the hospital dying of a cerebral hemorrhage. I remember sitting at the piano and pounding the keys like I'd seen Liberace do; then I'd turn around and say, "Clap everybody." The strange thing is that everybody would, and if I drove them crazy, nobody let on.
Uncle Johnny and Aunt Helen had four children; Tommy, Ronnie, Darlene and Donna Sue. I loved going to their house when I was little because Donna Sue was so utterly beautiful. She let me get away with nearly anything. Tommy was the photographer, always taking pictures of family events. I always loved Tommy too. (He's the one person I know who actually read the Encyclopedia Brittanica! Who does that?) We didn't have enough of those family events.
Aunt Thelma had a gathering at her house in Ohio in the fall of 1971. That particular gathering marked the last time the entire Goff clan would be together in one place. It was the last time Uncle Johnny and Gramma Goff would be with us. Uncle Johnny played a 12 string guitar, THE instrument of the early 70s. We were gathered around the dining room table, and Aunt Thelma had an old Broadman Hymnal, and Dad had brought along an old singing convention songbook with the shaped notes. Of course the only ones who could read the shaped notes were Grampa and Aunt Helen! Anyway, we had our own little singing convention, and Dad kept getting on me about staying on my part. Aunt Helen stopped everything and said, "Paulie, leave her alone. She'll figure it out." I don't know that I ever did, but I'll never forget how loved I felt at that particular moment. I remember leaving Aunt Thelma's house that night, and Uncle Johnny told Dad that he probably wouldn't be around at the next reunion, but he surely enjoyed this one. Dad never got over that, because Uncle Johnny died a few months later. Aunt Helen continued to come to all the Goff gatherings. It wouldn't have been the same without her. She called on every holiday just to tell us that she loved us.
Aunt Helen continued to be active in New Banklick Baptist Church. She and Darlene loved going to gospel music concerts, and she loved the Gaither Homecomings. When I gave a concert at my own church in the mid-90s, Aunt Helen brought her whole family! I looked out and half the sanctuary was filled with my family all because of Aunt Helen. Then she made sure that I was invited to her church to do a concert, and yep, once again, her family filled the pews. She was like that for everybody though. I wasn't special. Everybody in her life was special to her.
Aunt Helen went home to be with the Lord on September 17, 2008. Heaven welcomed the gentlest soul and kindest heart that ever lived. Although we'll miss her, she is no doubt singing alto in that Heavenly choir. The years that stole her legs, hearing and eyesight are long behind her now. She's already reunited with Uncle Johnny, her children, Ronnie and Darlene, my dad, Gramma and Grampa Goff, Uncle Able and Aunt Thelma. I know without a doubt that we'll see Aunt Helen Goff again. Until then, we'll go on singing.