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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

In Memory of Aunt Von, and grace

My Aunt Von died today, after more than 90 years of life. Since my dad was the youngest of 15, and my mom of 5, I have grown up all my life with a bevy of older aunts and uncles. But Aunt Von was special, cut from her own cloth. She was still wearing high heels and lipstick and driving her cadillac into her last decade . . . but she was also a country girl from West Virginia that could stir up a copper kettle of apple butter, or mow her own lawn when most of her contemporaries were using walkers. She ran a roadside snack bar for much of her life, under the sign "EATS", right next to my uncle's gas station, where we would help her boil up vats of vinegary sharp cucumbers to make her own pickles to put on the burgers . . . and she also had an incredible wardrobe of stylish hats and handbags (which we were allowed to dress up in, or later to borrow). She worked, hard. And spoke her mind, whether anyone agreed with her or not. She worried, especially about us. She wondered why we had to go to Africa when there were plenty of sick people in West Virginia. And even though I'm a pediatrician and know nothing about geriatrics . . . she wanted me to review anything her doctors prescribed, and would only take her pills if Scott or I told her she should. She was there at our graduations, our weddings, any time we came home. She sent me the beautiful red dress I've worn on Christmas for about five years running, because she thought I needed something pretty. I did. For most of my life, my Aunt Von filled the role that most people have for grandmothers ( I loved the only grandma I knew, but she was very old, lived further away, and I was one of a hundred progeny in her life). I'm sure she exasperated her siblings with her stubbornness, but not me, because all the force of her will was always in my favor.
My Aunt Von was a living example of grace. For no good reason, way before we were old enough to distinguish from the rest of the cousin crowd, she decided that my sister and I were special, that if I said so it must be right, that I would be the smartest doctor, or looked like a movie star. Once she decided so, she stuck with her opinion, fiercely loyal. And her love extended to Scott and our kids. There is no one besides my parents that could have been more determinedly devoted.
Tears have flowed freely today, and frequently. Aided no doubt by tangible sadness right under my hands, including a baby who died while we tried to save her life, the 5th of her mother's five babies to do so, in spite of months of nutritional therapy she had disappeared into Congo and only resurfaced cold and withered with gasping breaths and convulsions. I could not stop the shattering of this mother's life yet again, and I wished I was back closer to my family in this time of grief instead of in this hospital full of neediness and disaster. It was a long day, and my team mates bravely gave me hugs, listening ears, and space when I needed it, to make it through.
So tonight I reflect on this woman who gave me grace, my whole life. Barely 5 feet tall (in heels), not prone to speak of religion, still she was a picture of God for me, of unconditional and undeserved love.


harryk said...

Dear Jennifer,
I'm so sorry for your grief. Your tribute to your aunt made her love and dedication to her principles very real for us. I can see why she was a reminder of the gracious and unconditional love of the Lord. We're made in His image and when sin doesn't mar that image much, we can be wonderful examples of His love and steadfastness. Praying for your comfort and peace.
Harry K

Tricia said...

I am so sorry for your loss. May you find rest in God's presence and your memories of your Aunt. God bless.

Cindy said...

Hi Jennifer. What a lovely and unique person your Aunt Von was, and what a sweet and special impact she had on your lives and those of many others. I am praying that God will gently bring you comfort and peace and that today, there will be more life and recovery and less death and sadness among the children with whom you work. With love - Cindy

Debbie said...

Praying for God's comfort in your grief. She sounds like a real "original." You were blessed to have had her in your life.

Craig and Lisa said...

Jennifer, we are so sorry for your loss. The older folks in our families who loved us unconditionally and unfailingly truly mold our characters and show us how God loves us. I know you will miss her tremendously but always remember her fondly.

Butterfly said...

I am sorry about your loss. I pray that you will make it through this difficult time. Remember that God has a plan and knows what is best.
God bless you in your work for him.