Just before Christmas, my most precious, favorite Auntie passed away. She had a long life that was punctuated with struggles but underscored with great love. She was a shining example of a life lived with hands to work and heart to God.
Her memorial service was held last weekend, and as is customary, the officiant opened a time for anyone there who wished to share a memory or make a statement. And, as is usual, I could not find words. Not that I would have been able to speak them if they had come to me in that moment. When I'm emotional, I squeak instead of speak. So much for my career as a great orator. :-)
No, for me the words come when I place my hands on the home row. (That's the keyboard, for those of you who never had "touch typing" in school.) The feelings are there, of course, whether I write them out or not. But to give voice to those feelings requires the physical act of writing. So I would like to say a few words about a kind woman who meant so very much to me.
She was a master of The Brave Face. People who didn't know her well might never know that she struggled with terrible pain. She never complained about it, but if you asked her how she was and all you got was an "I'm good", you knew it was a bad, bad day. She was fiercely protective of her own privacy and that was part of it, but mostly she never complained because she felt her problems were her own and not something to trouble others with. Yes, Facebook would not have comprehended her.
She was a true Christian, with the heart of a giver. I can honestly say that she would gladly give her last dollar or her last worldly possession to someone who she felt needed it more than she did. She demonstrated that spirit every day of her life until she could no longer lift herself from her bed.
She was the family communicator. She was the one who remembered birthdays, who wrote cards and letters to family far and wide. She never spelled my name right, but her way of spelling it became her own pet name for me, and I treasured it.
She believed in the power of prayer. Anyone facing a struggle could count on Auntie's prayers.
She was all of those wonderful things, but she was even more to me.
She was the one who always, always expressed confidence in me. She always made me feel like she believed in my decisions, that my priorities were well-placed and that I was on the right track in my life.
She was the one who listened to the endless yammering of a talkative girl child, and somehow appeared to actually listen, which we know she wasn't, really.
She was the one who told me I should write. She was the one who told me that my stories had voice and that others would want to read them.
She was the one who saw my sweet hubs, all those years ago, and instantly saw what a gentle soul he his. She loved him immediately and always said we were a wonderful couple.
Many years ago, when Auntie was visiting us, she paid me the highest of compliments about my New York cheesecake. She took a bite, and closed her eyes in blissful repose and said, "Het is alsof een engel geplast op je tong" (thank you online translation site). Which in Dutch means "It's like an angel peed on your tongue". High praise, that.
She was patient, tolerant of other people's foibles and flaws.
She has gone, now, to join her own sweet husband, our beloved Uncle Henk. At last she sits at the table again with her husband, parents, her older brother, my father (whom she cherished as if her were her true brother) and all those many treasured loved ones who went before her, and feasts on the final fruits of her many labors. And I pray that the cheesecake tastes like an angel peed on her tongue.