Friday, May 17, 2013

Aunt Verna

So we had some sad news this week.  My Aunt Verna passed away on Wednesday.  She was a dear sweet soul and I loved her very much.

She went peacefully surrounded by 2 of her daughters with hymns playing softly in the background at 7am May 15, 2013 at 93 years old.  She had suffered with dementia for a number of years, but overall lived a full and healthy life.

So, below are two of the sympathy cards I made for my cousins.  I plan to make a few more so I have one for each of her daughters.

Let me tell you about my memories of my Aunt Verna.  First and foremost she reminds me of the wife described in Proverbs 31.  Below are some of the verses that seem especially descriptive of my aunt.

Proverbs 31:26-28

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed.

My earliest memories of my aunt were in her home in Palmyra NY.  She and my Uncle Bill lived in a small and cozy farmhouse on acres of land in upstate NY.  I always thought of my cousins as country girls and they always thought of me and my sister as city girls.  They lived on a road where the trees would overhang over the road and cattails, daisies and other wildflowers grew by the side of the road.  In the front of their house was a big tree with a swing.     They had a water pump in the backyard (that worked) with an tin cup tied to a string so you could get a cool drink anytime.   On the property there were fields of corn, strawberries and all kinds of vegetables, plus an over-sized garage that housed my uncles big trucks and farm equipment (for his business.)  

Below is a family photo.  In the center is my grandparents Betty and Frank.  On the far left is my dad and mom (in the peach blazer.)  On the far right is my uncle Bill and my Aunt Verna (in the pink pant suit.)  I'm guessing from the fashions and hairstyles that this was taken in the late 70's.

Next door to my aunt was my grandparents summer trailer.  My mom was the youngest daughter so my grandparents were always old to me and I don’t remember when they lived in the house, I only remember visiting them in Florida or in their trailer.  The farm house was like no house we had down near NYC.   There was a wood stove, an old piano, a big old dining table, a soft sofa and two recliners facing a small TV.   My aunt’s bedroom was a tiny room off the living room with just enough room for a bed and dresser.  Next to the bedroom was the one bathroom in the house with a toilet, sink and tub.  There was a curtain separating the bathroom from their bedroom and if anyone used the bathroom in the night, I’m sure it disturbed them since they were right there, you felt like you were peeing on top of their toes in bed it was that cozy!  The stairs leading upstairs were small, narrow and steep and in many places on that top floor you had to bend down so you wouldn’t hit your head on the roof.  That was where my two cousins slept and you had to walk through Caroline’s room to get to Nor’s.  In the basement was the laundry and for quite a while my aunt used a wringer washing machine.  I think she was still using that well into the 70’s because I thought it was the coolest thing to wash the clothes and wring them out, then hang them outside on the line.  We didn’t have that at my house.

My memories of my aunt were almost always in her home:  either her farmhouse or the lake house.  My grandparents had a small cottage on Canandaigua lake and at some point they sold the cottage to my Aunt Verna and one of my other aunts.  The two aunts shared the cottage for a number of years, each taking turns having it for two week stretches of the summer but at some point my Aunt Verna bought her sister out and it was theirs.  They did some renovations on it and that’s when it changed from ‘the cottage’ to ‘the lake house.’  At the lake house my sister, cousins and I would have a blast.  We would spend our days walking to the corner market for snacks, flirting with the boys, sunbathing on the raft and swimming.  On special evenings we would get to go to Roseland, a local amusement park on the lake.  We girls would squeal with delight after being given permission to go and we felt so grown-up as pre-teens.   

My Aunt was usually cooking, cleaning, hanging laundry on the line or sitting by the lake visiting with someone.  She was way more of a cat person than a dog person (although I remember her dog Tecler.)  She drank tea more than coffee and loved to play cards or games at the table in the evenings.

One specific funny memory (there were many) was the time that my Aunt, Uncle and cousin Nor came to pick me up at the train station in Rochester.  I would often (at least once a summer) take the train from downstate for a visit with my aunt by myself.  It was so cool to travel alone on the train.  I think I started doing that when I was about 10.  I was probably 12 or 13 during this visit and on our way home from the train station we stopped for dinner.  This was a typical rural restaurant for the late 70’s.  Picture a lot of round wood tables, uniformed waitresses, pie in a spinning display and the kind of place that had fruit cup on the menu for  an appetizer.  It was a NICE restaurant.  We sat down and immediately I noticed the young man who was filling our water glasses.  He was not more than 16 years old and I thought he was the cutest thing!  So I quickly sipped from my glass and noticed he came right back to fill my water glass.  I whispered to my cousin – drink your water – get the water boy to come back to the table.  As you can imagine, my cousin and I stayed ultra hydrated all night long and yes the water boy probably visited our table 20 times that night.  My aunt and uncle giggled about us foolish girls and didn’t complain when we made them hurry home since we both had to pee so badly!

Aunt Verna was a soft spoken woman, kind, gentle and godly.  She would go to the Catholic church but not fanatically.  I got the sense that she experienced God’s presence more in the beauty of nature than in the church, but I remember going to church with them all and it was a typical activity for them.

She loved to rock babies and I remember visiting with her when Sarah was really small and she seemed so happy to just have baby Sarah lying in her arms for hours on end.  While visiting with my baby we were going to go somewhere else and I was going to wake Sarah to get in her car seat.  My aunt quietly said ‘why would you wake a sleeping baby?’   She was so wise… in hindsight, I can’t imagine why I thought I needed to hurry to get to my next visiting place.  Frankly it had never occurred to me to NOT wake the baby.  I had someone to go, Sarah would adapt.    I think I took her advice and stayed put for a bit (at least that day.)

She had a strong sense of contentment although she didn’t have a lot of worldly possessions.  I think she was in her 50’s before she and Uncle Bill bought their first ‘new car.’  It was a big old thing – like an Oldsmobile or something.  She loved music and loved to garden.  Those were things she and my mother shared a love for.  I can’t ever remember her saying anything unkind about anyone.  At one point, after my grandparents had passed, they rented the trailer.  The renters were not good – rumors abounded about drugs, late nights and potty mouths, but my aunt would find something nice to say about them.    She was a warm lap, a listening ear, an encourager and one of the kindest people I’ve ever met.  She always welcomed me and my sister into her home, even though we would often disrupt things tremendously with our city ways.  She never scolded us or made us feel unwelcome.

There is so much more I could tell you about my Aunt and so many more memories I could share, but I think the comments above are enough to give you a sense of who she was and why she was so special to me.  I know I will see her again.  She had a quiet, but firm faith in God and the forgiveness that is available in Jesus Christ.  I am sad that she is no longer on the earth but I celebrate that she is in the presence of God experiencing his peace and love.  

The family is planning a private cremation but rumor has it there may be a 'life celebration' picnic this summer where family and friends can gather and remember her warm spirit.  Thanks for visiting today and getting to know my dear Aunt Verna.

1 comment:

Kimberly Gajewski said...

What a beautiful tribute to your sweet, Aunt Verna. I am so sorry to hear about your sad news, Linda. These cards for your cousins are just lovely.