Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Memories of My Aunt Grace

My Aunt Grace passed away yesterday. And I am sad.
My husband and I are on vacation. We are in a historical place, and yesterday we had been seeing the sites. We were sitting on a bench to rest for a few minutes, watching the horse carriages going back and forth, and absolutely enjoying ourselves. And then my phone rang.
When I heard the news, I could not speak. I listened about what happened, how it happened, and the outcome. I could hear my mother sobbing in the background. And then I cried, briefly, but with all my heart.
I love my Aunt Grace. Always have, always will. When I was small and lived in Ohio, every summer Daddy would drive us to New Jersey, where my mother's family lived. We would spend several weeks there, and sometimes I got to stay for the summer.  But always, after a 12 to 13 hour drive, within 15 minutes my Aunt Grace had me in her car, going...somewhere!

Life was an adventure to me with her. She took me to meet family I had never even heard of. And friends that I didn't know she had. I came to know all the folks she worked with at the knitting mill, and even knew their kids.

She took me horseback riding often. She didn't ride, but she watched proudly as I rode around and around, in my element, loving it the whole while. She never complained about the time, and I am sure there were many times she paid extra just to let me ride longer.

She took me to the store, shopping, just riding around. I was introduced to flea markets and yard sales. She took me to Fort Dix, where my grandfather had worked, so often I knew my way around. And she would take me to McGuire Air Force Base, right next to Fort Dix, to watch the planes taking off and landing. I loved it!

Aunt Grace had been adopted by my grandma and grandpa because it seemed Grandma could not bear a baby who could survive. So, while living in Akron, Ohio, they adopted a 3 year old girl, and named her Grace Lee. My Aunt Grace.

She helped Grandma raise 3 other children who came along naturally. God was blessing them with biological children. My mom was the first, when Aunt Grace was 12, then my Uncle Darrell, and finally Aunt Pat, who passed away in 1994, a year after Grandma.

But Aunt Grace, while slow, was raised by my grandma and kept under her thumb. It was not done in a mean spirit, but in the vein of protecting her from the outsiders, from those who may hurt her, or cause harm in some way. So Grace learned to copy grandma in her lifestyle. Her friends were approved by Grandma, or not, and her activities were limited to what Grandma though appropriate.
She did not even learn to drive until it became a necessity. My grandpa had a massive stroke while at work on Fort Dix. He was a fireman. He never recovered, and passed away 7 years later, when I was 15. Grandma took care of him, did what she could to help him, and was faithful and strong that whole time. That strength took root in Aunt Grace as well. When he first fell ill, she went and learned how to drive. It became her responsibility to transport everyone in the family. She eventually saved enough money from her job to buy her first car. And that car became her ticket to adventure, and freedom.

Aunt Grace was never home. She wasn't doing anything wrong, she was just visiting everybody she knew, or taking someone somewhere, or cleaning some one's house. She was busy, and she was always willing to help someone else. She had some difficulties because, as I said, she was slow. She did not comprehend some things. It was like one part of her cognition had been cut off.

But she did know goodness, kindness, and how to laugh. She was so much fun. She showered me and the other grand kids to come with love, gifts, fun. She was life itself, and I always looked forward to spending time with her.

In later years, after she and Grandma had moved to Ohio to live close to us, where I also lived at the time, she became pretty independent. In this I mean, she made new friends, without Grandma's consent. She went where she pleased, and did what she wanted with her own money. She learned how to write a check and balance her own checkbook. Yes, Aunt Grace had come of age, although she was well in her sixties by that time.

So, for the last few years, she had given up a lot of that independence. She gave up her right to drive. She turned over most of her finances to my mom and stepfather. She made her own funeral arrangements with a local funeral home, which shocked my mom greatly when she found out. But it turned out that she just did not want to be a burden, any more than she needed to be, to those she loved, and who loved her. My Aunt Grace.

For the past year she has lived in two nursing homes. She did well until last November, when she moved from one to the other. I'm not saying that is why she passed. She was 92 after all. But something changed for her, in that soon after she moved, she started fading away. Soon, the woman who was always talking, asking questions, telling cute jokes, suddenly spoke very little, and here lately not at all. She knew us when she saw us, smiled and held our hands. But she never spoke again once she stopped. And then on Sunday night, she was taken to the hospital, put on life support, and then simply stopped living. My Aunt Grace.

There is now a void where joy had been. But that joy will come back, as already I am laughing in my mind and heart, and even with a little chuckle here and there, at the funny things she would say and do. Yes, I will miss her greatly, but my love for her will never stop. And one day I will see her again. I am confidant of this fact. Life doesn't stop with the end of the body's life. It is only beginning. And Aunt Grace is now healthy and happy, and simply the best she has ever been, or could hope to be. She is with Jesus!


'Yes, we are good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.'
2 Corinthians 5:8 (ESV)

No comments:

Post a Comment