‘You can’t go home again’ is a famous American novel written by Thomas Wolfe. Wolfe, a much loved American writer, was born just a little over an hour away from Easley in beautiful Asheville.
The title of this brilliant book has often been on my mind since the passing of my beloved father, Stan Mahaffey, a little over two years ago.
Losing a parent is a painful, life changing event. But thankfully, even when facing the death of a loved one, there can be blessings.
And that is the reason I write this letter. LaTresa Nalley Gilstrap was such a blessing to me and my family during the time of my father’s passing. LaTresa, along with her husband, Greg, made herself and her home available to me and my family as we traveled from Columbia to Easley for the days surrounding my father’s passing and funeral.
Having extended family come into Easley for my father’s service, from places as far away as Maine, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, Maryland and Boston, local family homes filled up fast. But where to stay and sleep was never a concern for me and my family of five as we came into town. LaTresa put her life on hold during those days as she opened her home and heart to all of us. She made herself, her home, her kitchen, her car, whatever we needed, available. In fact, upon receiving the news of my father’s passing, LaTresa was the only person I could speak to without dissolving into tears. Just hearing her voice, briefly removed me from the sadness of the moment, to those lazy days of childhood.
Growing up across the street from each other in the neighborhood of Forest Acres, LaTresa and I attended school together from the 3rd grade at Forest Acres Elementary until graduating from Easley High School. (Go Green Wave!) Over the course of a friendship that has spanned 45 years, we share many memories, much laughter and a few tears.
So even though it has been over two years since my father’s passing, I want to thank LaTresa for all she did for my family during that time. I know people who have experienced such a loss will understand that it takes time to process everything that occurs during such an emotional time.
Yet I could not allow any more time to pass without expressing my thankfulness and love for such a dear friend. And to also recognize the family and community who has supported and loved her during her entire life, for LaTresa has never called anywhere else home except for Easley, SC.
Having lived in Columbia, various cities in Alabama, Charlotte, Houston Texas and Winston-Salem, N.C., I could call various places home. But it’s not until I am driving up Hwy. 123 and see the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains in the background, that I smile to myself and know Easley will always be my home.
And I wonder, if Thomas Wolfe had been born in Easley and had experienced a friendship like the one LaTresa and I share, would he have been able to write his great novel? For I know that as long as I have the family and friendships I have in Easley, I will always be able to go home.
I hope the readers of this letter will take time to appreciate the natural beauty of this area, and to appreciate the friendships that flourish with small town life. And once again, to LaTresa and all my childhood friends who supported me during my dad’s illness and passing, I say a heartfelt thank you. I love you all.
Cyndi Mahaffey St. John