My Aunt Margaret died last week. Her funeral was Saturday. I drove my folks to the service, which was short and simple, just the way she wanted it to be. Shel lived a good life, but was ready to go home and died on her own terms; which is just about all anyone can hope for.
Aunt Margaret was the eldest of my Dad's siblings, being 16 years older than Dad. Dad doesn't really remember her living at home--partly because she graduated High School and left home while he was small, but also because the older kids went to High School in Fowler, Ks and boarded in town. Automobiles in the 1940's didn't travel at the speed they do now, and living 20 miles outside of town, on dirt roads, that was just simply to far to drive every day. (And, remember gas was rationed during the war years.) So, while she was his sister, she just wasn't an active part of his memories of growing up.
On the other hand, Aunt Margaret definately remembers hearing about his pending arrival, his birth and she and the other kids helped name him--Harry Eugene--after Uncle Harry. The family call Dad Eugene--except for Aunt Margaret. She christened him "Harry Gene" and that's what she and she alone always called him.
Aunt Margaret and her family lived in Wichita--so they didn't come out this way very often--or not when I can remember. But, her children were young adults by the time I really developed memories. They married young and their families weren't that much younger than Steve and I. Because they didn't come out this way, and we didn't go to Wichita any more often than we had to, I just never developed a relationship with them. But I did with Aunt Margaret...
I remember our last Christmas at the farm when all the aunts, uncles and cousins were there. I was probably in First Grade. The day was over and my parents were wanting to head for home. But, I couldn't find my shoes. I remember looking and looking and being unsuccessful. Mom was getting annoyed and I knew it. Finally, I went into the kitchen and announced, "I still can't find my shoes, and I looked everywhere." Aunt Margaret put her hand on my shoulder, and squatted down next to me and said, "Hold on, let's stop a minute. Think about where you had them on last." I did, and immediately remembered exactly where they were. (They were on the back porch.)
When I was a Junior in High School, my cousin Ray was killed in a car accident. The very next day, my brother, Steve, broke his arm, had a concussion and was out of his mind. On the day of Ray's funeral, Steve was having surgery on his arm. Mom and Dad were with him and I chose to go to the funeral. Alone. I knew there'd be plenty of family around, so I thought all would be well. I didn't do as well as I thought. Understandably. But Aunt Margaret took me under her wing. She had me ride with her and Uncle Newt to the service and to the cemetary and the church. I really appreciated her that day.
Ten years later, I was a new Mom, a single Mom, with a baby who wasin the NICU at a Wichita hospital. I wasn't allowed to go along and had to arrive by car the next day. Aunt Margaret was the first to call (even though the hospital wouldn't give her any information.) She was also there with open arms, welcoming us into her home. I didn't stay with her, but my folks did, we did go to supper with her and Uncle Newt one of those blurry evenings and we stopped by her house before heading back to Colby. She was non-judgemental and very supportative. A few years later, we all learned why she was so non-judgemental and supportative. She'd been a young single pregnant woman who couldn't keep her baby. Her baby found her almost 50 years later, in 1995. She and he connected and became close. It's interesting, he looks more like her than her other kids. In fact, seeing him, he most definately looks like the Woodruff's.
Aunt Margaret, in my mind, was the consummate big sister. She took care of her siblings, she took care of any of her nieces and nephews who needed help. She took care of her kids and her grandkids. I'm not saying she was perfect, but she did her best and she spread love to all she knew.
She will be missed.