Rob’s aunt Martha passed away last week. Rob was called upon to do her memorial service and I was asked to sing – two hymns: Old Rugged Cross and In the Garden. It was a quick two day trip out there this past Monday and Tuesday. I was struck by all kinds of thoughts from the experience…
Families stick together. The Wood family has been a part of my life now for 21 years. I am always impressed how through thick and thin, no matter what happens, they are there for each other. Uncle Lloyd, Uncle Roy, Uncle Jim and their sister Dorothy (my mother-in-law) and their children and grandchildren all understand this strong loyalty to family. Here’s the fun twist in this family. Rob’s grandma, Viola, married Elbert. Elbert was Albert Wood’s twin brother. Albert married Viola’s sister (not twin, but sister none-the-less) , Mary. They settled in two farm houses within a mile from each other…you can see the other’s house from each house. Generations later, there are still branches of these two families living in these same houses! Mary’s children are just as loyal and close to each other and their cousins. So, when they are gathered together to honor a loved one’s passing — there are a lot of family who show up. I am better at recognizing all of them than I used to be, but thankfully they are very gracious and help me keep it all straight! The wierd thing was, I remember being the youngest…now Rob and I were a part of the (mid-range) couples…are kids are now who we used to be! I looked around at the faces around me and was struck by how much older everyone is looking…but then I realize, they’re probably looking at Rob and I with much the same thoughts! 🙂
The wake/viewing began at 7:00 p.m. and there was a steady stream of family and friends well past the 9:00 p.m. end time. Conversations I drifted in and out of were about: crops, aches and pains, old schoolmates meeting again after many years, moose hunting in Newfoundland, canning, weather, aches and pains, Martha’s influence in their life, food, cousins, family stories… It was an honor to be there as an “add-on” Wood family member.
Well into the night Rob and I had the blessing of sharing memories and hearing new stories about Aunt Martha from her husband over just over 50 years, Uncle Roy, and her children. Tears were shed, but laughter abounded. They met roller-skating and skated through life together ever since. We met Martha’s older brother…what a character! We learned there’s a right and wrong way to pronounce the German last name from Martha’s family line and heard the history of the name. Rob took careful notes so he could add this wonderful aspect of who Martha really was into his message.
The service filled with people extending into the overflow space. We were all challenged about how important relationships are and to evaluate the opportunities around us that we can choose to take advantage of to say, “I love you. You matter to me…”
I didn’t know Aunt Martha too well…but I did know her more through Rob’s eyes. She always looked out for Rob, making sure he didn’t get picked on too much by his older cousins. She always made sure there were 3 square meals a day for her family, and those helping on the farm, and visiting friends, neighbors. Took care of the house, the dogs, the other animals…managed her own “crops” – a garden just outside the back door. What always impressed me on the visits I made back to the farm with Rob early in our marriage was how Martha looked after Grandma Viola and other elderly friends….driving them to hair appointments or the grocery store, or the doctor. It was reassuring to all of us to know Grandma was being looked after so carefully.
Aunt Martha had a stroke that left her in a nursing home the past several years. I know it was really hard for everyone to adjust to her abrupt changes in lifestyle and her ability to communicate. Grieving this past Monday was more than just for her passing, but also for the loss of the past several years. She left a great legacy, though, and I see so much of her in her children…care for others, hospitality, no-nonsense approach to work and life…
The service was beautiful…the graveyard service was very touching…the meal that was lovingly prepared by many friends and family was such a nice expression of love. Everyone took time – lots of time – to honor Aunt Martha and her family. Stores were closed down. Cars on the highway pulled over out of respect as the procession to the graveyard passed by.
I was deeply touched by the traditions and good people – life seemed slower, more intentional and honoring. I realize it’s harder to reproduce this in the big city life. It can be done, though, and I do need to invest in making sure my family stays connected, embraces moments together and paves the way for future generations to do the same.
A bit of sentimental rambling…thanks for hearing ( reading) me out!