Posts Tagged With: loss

Mourning Aunt Kate

Aunt Kate passed away a few hours ago.  She was 96.

Aunt Kate was already 53 when I was born*, but she was always a spitfire.  She’d grown up on a farm and kept many of the habits; even at the age of 60, she gave the best and fastest wheelbarrow rides in the county.  She loved having us kids over for energetic visits and chased us around between chores (and probably because of them).  She worked her garden well past retirement, and there were always peas and cherries and green peppers to share.  Living at the same house for about seventy years, she was as much an institution of Hibbard Avenue as her neighbor’s grape vines—and her knowledge of everyone there was about as extensive and winding as those vines.

* It never occurred to me until tonight that I was the last-born of her direct nieces and nephews.  Although Aunt Kate had grandnieces and grandnephews who are younger than me, my brother Jim and I are the youngest children of her siblings.  Dad was the youngest of seven, and he didn’t marry until age 42, so all of our first cousins were born about fifteen to thirty years earlier than me.

Blessed with the metabolism of a small rodent, she ate like a farmhand and dished servings to match, even though no one else could avoid gaining weight at her table like she did.  She was famous for baking pies in quantity and quality, giving up lard for Crisco a few decades later than most. There were always at least two sitting around, and every visitor would wind up with at least “just a small piece, Kate,” which is to say a fifth to a third of a pie.

She was also adept at making spaghetti and meatballs from scratch, using tomatoes she’d can herself every year and a recipe that never seemed to turn out right for anyone else (perhaps if we all compare notes, we’ll figure out the whole thing).  More than anything else, that was her dish, and no matter the chef or recipe, it’s never as good as I remember hers being.

She loved cooking up a big batch on a Saturday night for family dinner at “the farm,” as Uncle Ed and Uncle Bill’s place was called.  Neither of them ever got married, so Aunt Kate took care of her brothers for many years, and that included a lot of cooking along with the cleaning.  She was very devoted to family and enjoyed her role, as well as the grief they could playfully give each other.  It sometimes seemed she enjoyed nothing as much as a good chance to be outraged, but the saddest part of writing a sentence like that is not that it might be misunderstood by those who didn’t know her but that she won’t be able to live up to it over this occasion of teasing.  Heavens to betsy, she loved to laugh and smile.

In like manner, she fully embraced the Heffron family tradition of showering each other with loving profanities, often acknowledging someone’s arrival or sass with the friendliest “you little $%!+” that one could ever hope to hear.  I never heard her take the Lord’s name in vain, though; she may have been sassy, but she wasn’t blasphemous.  If anyone else’s memory differs, then perhaps she put on an extra effort around me as my godmother.

Her husband, Uncle Harold, passed away in 2000, and for many years, Aunt Kate had a sweet relationship with Stuart, who’d been their friend for many years and who lived in a different town.  Although she endured some teasing, we were happy that she had such a kind and gentlemanly beau. His passing a few years ago was sad for all of us, but especially for his gal.

Aunt Kate had a full and long life, and I’m so blessed to have been part of it.  It’s heartbreaking to be so far away right now, but I’m glad I had a chance to see her again in September and to chat a few times by phone and even by video call.  I’m also grateful that God told me moments before she passed that I should really call my parents, who were at her bedside then.  Across 8,000 miles, I was able to tell her again that I love her and appreciate her, and that I’ll be making some spaghetti sauce again soon.

It won’t be the same, but I can always remember.

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Too much for us but not for Him

Please pray for us.  We’re not doubting our calling or facing disease.  Debts aren’t piling up and collectors aren’t after us.  The kids are fine and enjoying summer.  Karen’s even at sleep-away camp.

But we’re swamped.  We’re in a hectic season that’s very stressful.  There are more tasks to do than we can possibly accomplish in and through ourselves.  In just twelve days, we have to be out of the house that we bought when we thought God wanted us here forever.  The house just across the creek from where I grew up.  The house that had room for a workshop so I could be the kind of Dad who made things for his kids.  The house I saw while walking late one night twenty-some years ago and thought, “what a neat old house,” and that I saw five years ago and noticed was for sale.  The house with stately old trees and a pool, just like I always wanted.

The house that got full of things and that now needs to be emptied.

For weeks, we’ve been sorting everything we own into five categories:  a small amount of things to put into long-term storage here, things we’ll take with us to South Africa, things we’ll need in the temporary home we’ll have until we leave, things we need to sell, and things to just purge.  This last category has filled the 96-gallon recycling and garbage toters almost every week; my old school papers did it twice.

It’s hard.  The books I’ve loved and the ones I’ve never gotten to.  The ornately carved piano my parents restored, a piece I’ve always loved and kept and had hoped to pass down as an heirloom…  The beds I made for the kids… too big to store in our 6×12 cargo trailer.  There are stories to tell here but not the time for them now.  I want to tell them but have to get back to other tasks of sorting, purging and packing.

So I’m asking for prayer.  I’m asking you to join me in consciously connecting with God, in thanking Him for his blessings and guidance and asking for his strength and wisdom and encouragement.  I’m asking you to intercede with Him on our behalf.  He taught us He would always listen and He does, especially when we ask Him together, and we have faith that He does and will.

“Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.”

James 5:14-15, New American Standard Bible

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Fire and ice

It was twenty-four years ago yesterday, and an early thaw had been followed by freezing rain that encased everything – buildings, trees, cars, and lawns – in up to two inches of clear, solid ice.

The world glistened with chandeliers, and much of it crashed under their weight.

Continue reading

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A time of grieving


I finally had some time tonight. Time to be still. Time to think. Time to reflect. Time to remember quietly a much-loved boy of long ago.

A boy with an infectious smile, a quick wit, and a keen interest in his family. He was always smiling, always happy, always loving and loved. Continue reading

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