Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Two aunties

My Auntie Thelma died Sunday. Dad's only sister, she kept her brothers up to date on family and friends when their parents died. She was generous in showing her love with gifts: as youngsters, we envied all the presents her kids got at Christmas. She was noisy and had a flash temper: no one could yell at you like Auntie Thelma. Her generation of Europeans had a hard time expressing love, yet she always enjoyed a hug, a letter, or a phone call. I remember reading Auntie T's letters to Grandma (her mom) when I was a teen. Tall looping letters flowed across the pages, always white, half-sized stationary written on both sides. Grandma loved the updates and I got to know many of their acquaintances through  letters.

Diabetes and other health problems couldn't keep her from trips to town, visits with neighbors, and cooking. Always cooking. When her husband died last spring, she began clearing their lakeside home of years of accumulation. She and Uncle L had collected fabrics, groceries and sale items, knickknacks, and other "treasures," and she began to sort and clear the accumulations with the help of her kids. In the last months, as her body began to fail, she turned to neighbors and friends for help, refusing government health workers and hiding medical details from her doctors.

We'll miss her. She was a character, larger-than-life in our family story.

The other person I'm thinking about today is my Auntie Molly. I called Uncle Erich this morning on their anniversary date: today would have been 59 years, and he remembers the wedding as though it was yesterday. Auntie Molly was my "special" aunt, the one without children of her own who took my cousin and me to her house for coddling, peppermint tea, exquisite baking, and overnight stays under thick feather duvets. We tried on her hairpieces, experimented with her clear nail polish, played hide-and-seek in her closets, jumped the downy bits out of the feather beds, and sat proudly between her and Uncle Erich in church on Sunday mornings. She bought me a red patent leather clutch that I carried from age 10 through my teens, dressed fashionably and fussed over her weight, tut-tutted over her perfect housekeeping, and almost gave Uncle E a heart attack by leaving her robe on the family room floor. (He was ready to call the hospital to see if she had been taken ill: he couldn't imagine that anyone wouldn't hang up a housecoat: her excuse? She had been exercising and left it behind when a friend called her to have tea.)

Auntie M was the oldest sister of five children, who bossed everyone around, but never spoke an unkind word. I don't know anyone who didn't love her back. She was sunshine, always smiling, always happy to see people. Uncle E said when they visited the bakeries where she'd worked, people ran over to say hi and chat up a storm. Auntie Molly had more friends than anyone besides Uncle Erich. They were twin souls; he cared for her when her body began to fail and still mourns the empty place she left.

Auntie Molly passed away seven years ago, but I think of her on every birthday, anniversary, and holiday. She imprinted on the family her friendliness to people, her sparkle for life, her beauty and eye for detail.

Today I consider myself blessed to have known these women. Their lives were filled with prayer for family and friends. They taught us to love God and care for people, giving themselves away in different manners, disparate styles, but with similar passion and interest in others. Though they're gone, I know we'll see each other in heaven, and I look forward to telling them again how dear they remain in my memories.

Who left their mark on your life? A woman? A man? We'd love to read about why you remember them. (Comments welcome below. NOTE: photos are not of my aunties!)

Read more:
*Your arm is endued with power; your hand is strong, your right hand exalted. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you. Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD. They rejoice in your name all day long; they exult in your righteousness. For you are their glory and strength, and by your favor you exalt our horn. Indeed, our shield belongs to the LORD, our king to the Holy One of Israel. Psalm 89:13-18 NIV

*[Jesus told this story about accountability:] The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master's money.

After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. Matthew 25:16–19 NLT

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