Mourning is Complicated

My Aunt Susie went home to be with the Lord last night.

Aunt Susie was really my double aunt; she was my Dad’s sister, and her husband, my Uncle Jim, was my mother’s brother.

“Jim ‘n’ Susie” factored into my earliest memories. Their farm was diagonally across the pasture from ours, on the same road as the country school we all attended.

When I was a kid, the hub of our entire social life was the extended family—aunts, uncles and cousins—nearly all of whom lived within a few miles of each other. Birthdays of aunts and uncles meant celebrations with all the cousins. The grown-ups sipped coffee (very pale coffee, as I recall) visiting and snacking on the various cakes, cookies and sandwiches while “us kids” roamed the farm yard creating our own fun. It was at “Jim ‘n’ Susie’s” we dared each other to jump off the chicken coop. Ooomph! I did it, but secretly promised myself that I would never do that again.

Those birthday discussions all took place around the kitchen table, no matter whose kitchen it was. At least the women were in the kitchen. I don’t have a clear memory of where the men were on those occasions, but I remember Aunt Susie’s kitchen in particular. Her kitchen served as the template for my dream kitchen: A round oak table surrounded by oak chairs, an oak buffet on the adjoining wall. Eventually I acquired my grandmother’s round oak table and have since added my own collection of oak chairs and oak buffets, although I’ve never been able to find the mission-style oak chairs I so admired.

We won’t be able to attend Aunt Susie’s funeral, and here’s where it gets complicated.

We live nearly 900 miles away from the town in South Dakota where her funeral will take place. For a number of reasons, we are unable to make that trip. I’ll miss so much. I don’t think I realized until now how healing funerals can be.

I’ll miss the funeral lunch! Writing about the birthday celebrations reminded me of those sandwiches. There would be trays of various kinds of sandwiches, some on white bread cut diagonally into fourths, and some on small homemade buns. Egg salad, ham, cheese—oh, those were the best sandwiches. I’ve tried to duplicate them since, but it’s never the same. Then there were the cakes. My favorite, and I’m not sure if this originated in South Dakota or in Wisconsin where Himself’s relatives live, is poppy seed cake with lemon frosting. Everything was homemade by the members of whichever ladies circle was in charge of funeral lunches.

Speaking of homemade treats occupying a cherished place in my memories, I must mention Aunt Jessie’s sour cream raisin pie. Yummm! Her sour cream was actually soured cream, not the bland pasteurized product we buy today.

I’m giving myself license to ramble about old memories here as a substitute (a poor one) for being able to share the old stories with people at the funeral.

Will I miss Aunt Susie now that she’s gone? Will I actually be missing Aunt Susie or memories of her? We’ve lived hundreds of miles away for years and have only seen her and the rest of the kinfolk once or twice a year, if that. Some people, though, are simply foundational parts of our lives. We take for granted that they’ll always be there. So, yes, I definitely will miss her.

When my mother died at the age of 95, I was dumbfounded to find myself shocked. Shocked? She was 95 years old. It was hardly a surprise, or untimely as it was when my Dad died of cancer at the age of 65. That was a horrible time to go through and the grieving inexpressibly painful. Mom was ready to go, “full of years,” and eager to be gathered with her people.

Mom’s passing left a giant hole in my life. Simplistic and obvious as it is to say, I’d never known life without my mother in it. Thus I felt shock. The same is true about Aunt Susie. She is in my earliest memories. She should always be there.

If I had been able to go to Aunt Susie’s funeral, it is not as though we cousins would greet one another with “Sorry for your loss,” or “Our sincere sympathy to you.” We wouldn’t have a universal greeting the way we do at Christmas—“Merry Christmas” we say, or “Happy New Year!” A funeral is not like that, but we would have the shared sense of loss. We, together, share this loss. We, together, ride this human conveyor belt, and we, together, see we are growing ever nearer to the day when it’s our turn to tip off the end. It’s a comfort to understand we are a part of a great continuum, and someday others will be mourning us.

Mourning is complicated, but it’s a blessing to have people in our lives who have been important to us. It’s a blessing to be part of a family who mourns when one is missing.

As Believers, we don’t mourn as those who have no hope. We haven’t lost Aunt Susie; we know where she is. She’s with Uncle Jim, my Mom and Dad, her parents…and most joyfully, her Savior. Someday soon we’ll meet again where there’s no pain, no sorrow, and no more tears. Imagine waking up in Glory and finding it HOME.

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4 thoughts on “Mourning is Complicated

  1. Mourning is complicated. So many different emotions, so many memories, so many desires to let go, so many people to love, and so much to love and appreciate about our wonderful God.

    Thanks for sharing, Elaine. Your aunt obviously made an impression on you and so you carry in yourself something of what she was and is. You are blessed.

    Nancy

  2. Complicated is such a great word to describe mourning. My mother passed away when I was a teenager. Time hasn’t exactly ‘healed’ the wound of losing her. It has simply changed the way I mourn.

    What sweet memories you shared. It sounds like your Aunt Susie had a sweet tooth! …and a beautiful kitchen. It’s so nice that your round table is a reminder.

  3. I remember those gatherings. You have captured the memory beautifully. We are blessed to be part of such a family.

    One of the hard things about growing older is all the goodbyes. It’s wonderful to know so many of our loved ones will be waiting when we get there. Once again, I must say that we are blessed to be part of such a family!

  4. Very well said, Elaine. We’ve all had similar experiences, and you have a way of taking the human experience, often inexpressible, and putting it into words.

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