I haven’t posted much recently; just getting ready for the Great Adventure and all that.
But this morning I had a phone call from my RN sister to let me know that our last Auntie passed away today at 6.35 am, in the hospital. One of her daughters and one of her sons were with her and it was peaceful, which is good. She went into hospital last Thursday with a bit of pneumonia in the bottom of one lung as well as feeling very tired. She has had a bit of a heart condition for some time. She would have been 93 next month and we are all lucky to have had her in our lives for so long. I spoke with her on the phone nearly every night since I went to Tacoma and the calls were always different. We shared such a variety of interests and life experiences. Plus she had so many stories to tell about her youth, growing up with my Mum and the rest of her family.
All the women in our family did some sort of handcraft; the doily was made by this Auntie, the bit of blue is a detail from a small afghan made for her by my Aunty in Edmonton and the runner on her dresser was woven by my Mum. The wee wooden sign is typical of the humour enjoyed by all our family and especially the women . . .
This is a photo of a photo. I took the original when she was visiting Mum and me at Mum’s house in Edmonton, so back before 2006. The china cabinet belonged to Mum and Dad and held a few of Mum’s keepsakes. The wooden plant stand to the right was made by my Dad, who could make pretty much anything. The rocking chair is the one that belonged to my Great-Grandmother, mother of my maternal Grandmother who died in her early 40s. My Great-Grandmother, my Mum’s Aunts, my Mum and myself have all rocked in this chair, holding our babies. It was located in one of Mum’s Uncle’s basement in pieces and my Dad lovingly restored it. The tooled leather seat is the original; the only new bit is one arm spindle, which was missing. Dad made a new one that matches so well it’s hard to identify which it is.
This pitcher belonged to that same Great-Grandmother, who helped to raise the younger kids after their mother died. I heard so many stories about her as I was growing up. The girls, especially, would stay with her for a week or so in the summer and if they were very good during the day, the big treat was being allowed to brush Grandma’s hair before she braided it and got ready for bed. It’s hard for me to imagine a child finding that to be a treat these days.
One of my favourite stories from the days when mum and her siblings were growing up was of the time Mum’s next older sister (Mother to the cousin I’m currently living with and married to my Dad’s next older brother), Mum and this Auntie were up on the roof of what was called the bunkhouse. In the summer, the boys slept there and all the kids played there at times. The main house had one bedroom, which was the parents’, a kitchen off the main living room, where the six girls (one had died at age 10) shared two double beds and the three boys slept on a pull-out bed in winter, when the bunkhouse was too cold. Anyway, the three girls were up on the roof hammering some shingles back on (they had blown off in one of the frequent storms of the ’30s). This Auntie was a few years younger and not so obedient as her sisters might have wished. She was sitting there and reading a book, deaf to all entreaties that she help with the job. So the other two worked right up to her, hammered a nail or two through the leg of her shorts and went on to finish the job. Then they climbed down and took away the ladder, with this Auntie seeming oblivious to everything and immersed in her book. Of course, it wasn’t long before she went to get up and discovered her predicament. I gather she raised quite a fuss before they relented, brought back the ladder and set her free again. This was a cross-stitch kit that Mum had. You will see on the roof of the wooden bridge (meant to represent the bunkhouse, of course) that there are two ‘M’s, actually Scorpio signs, I think. Anyway, they were what Mum had to hand and she stitched them on as symbols for herself and this Auntie, as both their names began with ‘M’. This story still makes me smile.
This Auntie and one of her brothers went to Norway almost exactly 20 years from when I am going to the UK. They were there for the big 17 May celebration, Constitution Day. They went to Lillehammer and saw the house where their father was born and lived, I think until he and two brothers emigrated when he was nineteen. I have been told that we still have family living in that house, although the cousins my Aunt and Uncle visited are now gone.
They also went to Trondheim. Their Mother was born there or near to there and the family lived in the area until they emigrated in 1900. My Grandmother was only nine at the time. While in Trondheim, my Auntie and Uncle met the minister of the Nidaros Cathedral and got to walk down the aisles and sit in one of the pews. We think the family may have attended church there.
My Auntie was only one year older than I am when she made that trip, which encourages me. She spoke so often of wishing she could make one more trip back and even though we both knew it was not possible, we would pretend it was and talk of where we would go and what we would do. I told her she would have to be prepared to camp out at the rock concert but that there would be a Ceilidh the night before and she could dance at that and then again during the concert (my ticket is for standing, not for a seat). She loved to dance so much and would have had a wonderful time. I told her that I would take her with me in spirit and would visit on my return so she could see my photos and hear my stories. I wish with all my heart that was still possible. We talked sometimes of the fact that she might die while I was away or even before and had an agreement that if so, she would accompany me even though I would not see her. I truly hope that is possible.
I am so glad that the last words we exchanged before she went to hospital and again while she was there (during a short conversation on my cousin’s mobile) were “I love you so much.”
She ‘kidnapped’ me once when I was new and I shall share that story another time. In spite of the inevitability of this day, I still feel sad. But she was ready to go and I am also content. It was the passing she wanted and what more can any of us ask for?
Only a little music for today:
Sissel Kirkjebo of Norway singing Going Home
and Runrig of Scotland singing their own Going Home
Take care of yourselves, my friends. You are in my heart today especially.