The Unvarnished Truth
I was in the eighth grade. We had recently moved to North Carolina where we met our new Van Hecke family. One branch of the family lived in Charlotte, the same city we did. That was Daddy’s younger brother Merwin, his wife Faye, and the kids, Kelley, Michael, and Charlie. My sister and I had played in their yard; they’d visited our duplex. Yet, we didn’t know each other that well. Until the day Aunt Faye took me to school.
Faye was a high school English teacher. I wasn’t in high school. I was an extremely shy junior high student who thought she was naturally smarter than most everybody else. (I’ve always thought more of myself than I should.) Faye wasn’t an ordinary teacher. She was an intellectual free-thinker. Thus did she bring me up short the day I began talking about the war we were studying in geography class.
The 1967 Six Day War was only a handful of years old, it being 1972. The war featured Israel on one side with Egypt, Jordan, and Syria on the other. The Israeli victory over much greater forces was considered a miracle of almost Biblical proportions. Israel, our friend, had defended itself against the mighty Goliath. At least, that was the way I’d learned it that day in school.
But Faye asked me, what did I think of the war? Was Israel in the right when it made a preemptive strike? Didn’t Israel, in fact, start the war?
I was flummoxed. I’d repeated what my teachers taught me—how could I not be right? That’s what school was for, wasn’t it? To learn what you were being taught.
But Faye said you had to think for yourself. See what made sense to you. Examine it, turn it around in your hands, sort it through. Even more deeply, Aunt Faye taught me that facts can arrive with an almost unrecognizable slant. Everything is shaped and formed and told the way folks want it to be told. Doesn’t mean Israel was right. Doesn’t mean Israel was wrong. It meant I had to decide for myself. To this day, I don’t have a clue what Faye thought about the war. She was asking me to think about the war.
Faye died this week. Her funeral is tomorrow. I can’t make the trip to North Carolina to be with the family because my husband is recovering from surgery. So here I sit, wondering what I can do to let her family know how very much I loved her. And I thought, Ellen, you can do the only thing you can do. Write about her. Because it was her lesson that day when I sat with my mouth gaping open that set me on the path to look for the unvarnished truth. Not the convenient truth. Not the truth that all those around you believed—man, I’m telling you, to even question Israel’s actions in 1972 was unheard of.
The quest is for the truth as we can best parse it out. Failure doesn’t lie in giving a right or wrong answer. It lies in not thinking for yourself.
Love you, Faye.
The soul of our beloved Faye Massengill Van Hecke, 87, has taken flight on August 16, 2016.
Faye, daughter of Nathan and Gladys Adams Massengill, grew up in Kinston, NC. At UNC Chapel Hill, she wrote for The Daily Tarheel, was a member of Alpha Delta Pi sorority and Order of the Valkyries. She met M.S. Van Hecke (“Van”) working at The Kinston Free Press. They married (for 64 years) and moved to Charlotte NC and raised three children: Kelley Shaw, Michael Van Hecke and Charlie Van Hecke. In the 1970’s, Faye earned a Master’s Degree in Education and a teacher’s certificate (ASU/UNCC) then taught reading and journalism at Olympic HS for 20+ years, earning Teacher of the Year honors multiple times. She loved to play tennis especially at their Beech Mountain summer home and at Ocean Isle Beach with Bayard and Virginia Van Hecke. She and Van retired from Charlotte to Waxhaw.
Faye’s passion for education was only surpassed by her love of her family. She cherished her grandchildren Kelley, Eric, Sarah, Kinney, Faye and Maurice and had recently met great granddaughter Nora. She considered her nephew Gary Massengill and niece Charleah Day to be her children too, as well as her childrens’ spouses, David Shaw, Evelyn Kinney Van Hecke and Lisa Champ Van Hecke. She was looking forward to attending the 44th Annual Van Hecke Beach Reunion in September.
Faye was well known for her kindness, humor – and spunk. While overcoming a broken hip last year, she told her healthcare team to keep a positive attitude. She looked people in the eye and believed the eyes to be the windows of the soul. One Waxhaw United Methodist Church choir member commented that it was an inspiration to see Faye recently singing and clapping with such spirit. Faye, nicknamed the minister of unconditional love, will be missed by her family, church and former students but she will live on in our hearts, reunited in heaven with those she loved that have passed before her.