Thursday, April 28, 2016

Thankful Thursday: On the Passing of my Great-great Aunt

I know I haven't written on this blog in a few weeks, and I suppose it's because I've been in a very reflective mode during this time. Just ten days after her 95th birthday in March, I got a text from my mom that my great-great aunt Betts had just been put on hospice care. She had likely had a heart attack overnight. She never woke up. She passed away just minutes before my husband and I made it to her care facility. She was surrounded by family when she died, and we all took hands and said a tearful prayer together. We thanked God for her life, and rested in the assurance that she was now with him. And then we said the Lord's Prayer together, all of us standing around her bedside. How surreal it was.

I'm our family historian. I'm only 30, and I've been the family historian since I was 16. My great-uncle actually just told me the other day they had a family history question for me. Me! But later that afternoon at Betts' care facility, as my family sat together reminiscing, it hit me. Aunt Betts had been my connection to our family history. She had always been there. She had always been a fiercely independent woman with a sharp wit and an even sharper memory. She was the granddaughter of Irish immigrants, and of Indiana pioneers. She was alive during the Depression, she could remember World War II clearly, though she didn't really speak of it. She knew more about sports than anybody I've ever known, and was quite the athlete in her day - she even is in the Indiana Softball Hall of Fame. And she loved her family. She told me so many stories about her parents, her grandparents, her fun in her childhood and youth with her brother and her sister - my great-grandmother, who died years before I was born. She was a standing pillar of history in our family. She was the one who kept the distantly growing different sides of our family together. Most of us really only saw each other once a year in March at her birthday parties. She was the last of an old age in my family, and now she's no longer with us to answer our questions, to tell us stories of the last 95 years, to laugh with us and play Euchre with us.


So today I choose to be thankful for her life. I'm thankful I knew her. I'm thankful she was "adopted" into our side of the family. That she spent all her holidays with us. That she faithfully sent us birthday and Christmas cards every year that simply read, "Love, Betts". That she was hilarious and could beat anybody at Euchre. That she kept friends that she had known since grade school her whole life. That up until her death, she was there for my entire life, my mother's entire life, and my grandmother's entire life, and my great-grandmother's entire life. I'm thankful I got to ask her what her parents and grandparents were like. I'm thankful I got to tell her her other grandparents' names, as she never knew them. I'm grateful to now be the caretaker of all her photo albums and memorabilia, because she knew how much I will treasure them. I'm thankful that she lived a long, full, life, and that she died peacefully. I'm thankful she was a part of our family.

Her passing has made a mark on me as a person, as a family member, and as a family historian. It has reminded me how important it is to gather our elders' stories while we can. It's made me grateful I started our family history work as a teenager, because I got to open my eyes to a whole other level to our family I would never have experienced had I been indifferent, and I got to spend precious time with Aunt Betts I otherwise may not have. Family history is so important. It shows you who you are, who your family is, it helps you appreciate who you came from, and provides you with a unique identity and pride. And boy, does it show you love. And today I'm thankful for love.

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