Friday, July 31, 2009
Panhatchapie, The Life of a Princess
I love the phrase, "we celebrate the life of...." It is so much better a remembrance than, "we gather to mourn..." Panhatchapie was not really an Osage Princess, but she was my princess. She was born Emilly Belle but some man in her early life began to call her Panhatchapie which was shortened to Pan, the name I knew her by all of my life until last year when I asked her if her given name was truly Pan. From the first time I remember seeing her, I thought she was beautiful and then I would see movies with actress Ann Blyth (The Helen Morgan Story, The Great Caruso) and think how much alike she and Pan looked. She was a mystery woman in my young life for she would appear with a gift from some strange land and then dissappear again. Pan had little formal education but she was a voracious reader and quick learner. She understood which clothes augmented her natural beauty and educated, wealthy and powerful men were attracted to her. She was married to an air force colonel, a diplomat, and a doctor. She lived in New York and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where she learned to speak Portuguese. Pan was not above telling a lie, even on an official document for someone catching her beauty suggested she apply to work as an airline hostess. With no experience and her limited education, she basically fabricated a history complete with college education and several years experience as a flight attendant. My mother received a letter from Flying Tigers asking for verification of Pan's story and she didn't want to lie but ultimately, she confirmed Pan's lie as a truth and then worried that the FBI would come and get her. Pan went to work for Flying Tigers and traveled around the world, adding to my toy collection as she did. She kept in touch with me through my navy career and when my son Stephen was born, she visited us in Bartlesville and took us to our favorite restaurant, which we could not afford. She was with us through many visits to Pawhuska, her home town, and Bartlesville and I was able to meet her in California at different times. She never seemed to age to me and I was stunned when she told me that she had told her doctor that she was eighty-three and did not want heroic treatments to fight the cancer that had invaded her pancreas, liver and kidney. How could Pan, who never changed be eighty-three? But I had not seen her in years, although we talked on the telephone often. The last time I had seen her was when her brother, Bud Purvis, had called me at work and said that Pan would meet us in the great hall in the Adams Building and I dropped everything to rush over to meet them. There was Pan, radiant, laughing, beautiful as ever. She was my guardian angel, someone always there for me, when I was a good kid, and when I was confused, lost and in trouble. My brother Charles called me last night to let me know that she had left us yesterday, leaving a hole in our lives that will not be filled. I knew she was going to die for the machines, CAT, PET, and other had told us so, and had even told us she would be here six months. The selfish part of us wanted her to have that six months and more, for ourselves, but now she won't suffer longer and that's good. I have seen too many suffer, especially with cancer. As much as I miss her, and will miss her, I am grateful that she won't suffer longer. Pan was a princess, and an angel to me and mine, and now she rests with the angels. We celebrate the life of Pan Purvis Ray, 1926-2009.