Toni Rae Morris, age 67, came into this world on October 6, 1951 in Atlanta, Georgia, and left this life she loved so dearly on January 29, 2019 in Pensacola, Florida.
Toni was preceded in death by her parents, Homer H. Morris and Virginia Wade Morris. Also waiting for her on the other side were a host of relatives and precious friends who she always looked forward to seeing again, especially her beloved grandmothers, Myrtle Wade Hunton and Nora Morris. In addition to her Morris and Wade families, people waiting on the other shore to welcome her have the names of Gilstrap, Morgan, Anderson, Scantland, Cameron, Allen, Wilson, Sosebee, Thomas; the list of those gone before who loved her seems endless. What a grand reunion that must have been.
She is survived by cousins and a multitude of friends who she considered the family with whom she chose to walk beside in her journey through this life. That journey took her through homes in Georgia, Nashville, TN and Panama City, FL. She made cherished, lifelong friends in each place. She also leaves behind her most trusted circle of love, Janice Gilstrap, Cheryl Morgan Shepherd, Joey Gilstrap, Jennifer Gilstrap Smith, Marc Smith, Jami Gilstrap, Makenzie Smith, Brody Smith, Tracee Allen Simmons, Joyce Wright, Gary Anderson, Don Anderson, Martha Anderson, Marilyn Parsons, Jan Maddox, Carl Maddox, Robbie Wilson and the extended family members of that entire circle.
Toni faced life head-on, on her terms. If she had a dream, she went for it. Even when the results turned out differently than she had planned, she always saw the good in the pursuit. She refused to dwell on negativity and would not tolerate it from others. She was a sweet, gentle soul, who believed everyone is important and should be respected. She was truthful, loyal and honest. She was a great friend and unpaid counselor and therapist to all who encountered her.
Her favorite things were music, singing, dancing and traveling. When she sang, angels smiled. While she hadn’t danced in a while due to a knee problem that was the one thing she looked forward to most. Trips to her beloved St. Simons Island, Georgia and Memphis, Tennessee were always special to her. But traveling did not have to be a big ordeal, even if it was just a Sunday afternoon drive, just to get in the car and go, it didn’t matter. Just turn the radio up and put it in drive, she was an expert shotgun rider.
This poem was written by Toni’s lifelong friend, Cheryl Morgan Shepherd:
"My arms are wrapped around you holding you so tight,
Clutching broken pieces of our hearts with all our might.
She has never left us, she lives within us still,
For her love is ever eternal,
And sharing hearts was her true will.
Hearts that joined together so many years ago,
Never separated through distance, joys, or even woes.
Those beautiful blue eyes, that gorgeous long blonde hair.
That smile that brightened the day
When thoughts so needed her there.
Always true, always strong, never turned her back,
On those she loved with friendship deep,
Tenacity she never lacked.
So, breathe her in and feel her soul,
It's alright to cry and grieve
We're holding each other's hands and hearts
For our Toni will never leave."
Heaven must be a little brighter these days. We know that if David is still dancing before the Lord, Toni is dancing right beside him. And to borrow a line from Vince Gill, “I wish I could see the angels faces, when they hear your sweet voice sing.”
A Celebration of Life will be held at a future date. Until then, and beyond, be kind and love one another, because in the end, that is all that matters.