Notes from Jan

Ingredients for a Lasting Legacy

July 24, 2017

My cousin, Judy, and I share a love of baseball. Judy loves the St. Louis Cardinals and I, the Boston Red Sox. We’re both the eldest with two younger brothers.( Judy, Paul, Steve  and Jan, Dan, Ralph) Judy married Jim, a judge and I, a Jud. Our mothers were sisters and our fathers, brothers.  No, it’s not as weird as it reads, though Norwegian moms and Danish dads kept the jokes coming, the feuds going, the coffee brewing and the cousins closer than Arkansas, North Carolina and Massachusetts would suggest.

Judy’s Mom was my auntie Joyce and favorite for as far back as memory serves.   Her Norwegian name was Solveig (Sool-vay).She celebrated her 90th June 8th. Judy called Saturday to say her Mom was in Hospice care and added, “I told her to hug Jud for you.”  Well, my aunt took off for Home yesterday, after a short stint in Hospice and several years of loving care by Judy and family. I feel the loss of her great and grateful generation.  She was the last of Mama’s sisters to up and leave us. Can’t blame her. She missed them.

My recipe box contains smudged and dog-eared reminders of Auntie Joyce. They’re the ingredients of a legacy.  My aunt could cook, bake and serve up love in a 9×13 pyrex dish like nobody I know.

When Heather was born, Auntie Joyce, Uncle Howie and  Steve, drove from Illinois to Michigan,  first family welcomers.  She brought food, not flowers. Another summer they joined Jud, Heather, Chad and me at Burt Lake in Michigan for a family vacation. Auntie Joyce  made Taco Salad. No summer’s turned to fall before I’ve made it, at least once, since then. Is it any wonder, when I was young and threatened to run away, it was always to Auntie Joyce, cowed only by Mama’s eagerness to help me pack.

Joyce was  next to the youngest of the six sisters and one brother.  In the last year of  Mama’s life, Joyce was her favorite caregiver.  Mama loved when I was with her but there was this unique bond between the sisters.  It was Joyce who was curled up beside Mama when she died, while I slept in the next room. The sisters felt I needed my rest. Mama’s last words to me were,”Go to bed!” I’d hoped for something more along the line of a blessing.

Auntie Joyce sang at our wedding and other  family gatherings.  Often we requested the Gaither’s We Have This Moment. Judy said,”She’d sit and sing Gaither songs in the nursing home.”  Memory full of holes but no loss of lyrics to favorites songs and hymns.

Thank you, my favorite Aunt, for all the meals, songs, games played with treats nearby, hugs, encouragement, thoughtful care for my Mama, prayers for Jud and always a sense for family or friend, “if you need me,  I’ll be there” and we knew it to be true.

 Judy sat beside her yesterday morning singing Blessed Assurance when her Mom up and left for heaven. I don’t think Judy’s singing gave her the extra nudge to flee like a bird. Maybe the sisters called,”Time to come Home.  Coffee’s on.”

This morning I read in Ephesians 5:19″Then you will sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, making music to the Lord in your hearts. “(NLT)

Well, Sweet Singing Solveig, you’ve been making music to the Lord for as long as I’ve known you, leaving you rehearsed for the heavenly choir. Down here, we’ll try to keep the song going until it’s our turn to leave. Sobering thought to think I’m next in line, if we go by age. Leaves me standing in the batter’s box awaiting the call, batter up.

Well, enough of that! Better to call up the chorus from the Gaither song you loved.

We have this moment to hold in our hands and to touch as it slips through our fingers like sand;

Yesterday’s gone and tomorrow may never come, but we have this moment today.”

My cousin Paul called last night and left me laughing as we talked about the official time of Aunt Joyce’s death and who was really at her side.

That’s my aunt’s legacy: Judy, Paul,Steve, their families  and extended family and friends, who feasted on laughter, songs and a whole lot of time-tested recipes. Family favorites, served with  love, preserved in prayers to keep us close in heart until we make it to the table where we know there’ll be seconds:   a second chance,   a second stanza to sing,  a second time to hear the joke or story,  a second round of a game, and always enough for second helpings.

Yesterday’s gone and tomorrow may never come, but we have this moment today.

That’s a recipe for life.

Thank you, Auntie Joyce.








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  • Reply Katherine Bagley July 24, 2017 at 9:15 pm

    I’m sorry for your loss Jan. It sounds like you have many fond memories of your aunt to keep you company until that great reunion we have with our loved ones. Your story reminded me of my dear aunt Minnie, my favorite. What a blessing to have had such wonderful people in our lives!

  • Reply Jim Trent July 24, 2017 at 9:15 pm

    What a blessing to have had such a wonderful aunt. Jan, my second favorite baseball team is the Red Sox; however, like your cousin Judy, my first love is for the Cardinals

  • Reply Shirley Westrate July 24, 2017 at 9:30 pm

    Jan, what a timely piece to find this afternoon as this was the day that I took my precious aunt, Florence Winsor, to the new Memory Care unit in the next town. So much of what you said about your Auntie Joyce could be echoed by me about Florence. The favorite aunt, the favorite recipes, the laughter, all the sweet memories. Florence is waiting to hear her name called, ready to join her parents and so many friends and loved ones and David Scholer and Jud. Her days working with Jud and your visits to her in Florida are clearer to her than this afternoon’s lunch. They are sweet and treasured memories of a sweet and treasured lady…a lady, it seems, who is much like your Joyce. My heart aches for your loss today but celebrates the hope of that joyous reunion for us all.

  • Reply Jeri July 24, 2017 at 9:44 pm

    Hearts go out to you Jan! Never easy to say goodbye to our loved ones here. Sweet story you have shared with us.

  • Reply Myrna July 24, 2017 at 9:57 pm

    She left a wonderful legacy and many sweet memories. Thanks for sharing. We’re sorry for your loss.

  • Reply Sue Andringa July 24, 2017 at 9:59 pm

    What a lovely tribute to your favorite aunt, Jan Surely you will miss her, but what a family reunion you will enjoy one day. I’m looking forward to meeting ALL of your family and to hugging your wonderful Jud again. As I get older, my longing for Heaven increases significantly. Can you even imagine the JOY we will know in being with Jesus and seeing loved ones again! Thank you for sharing your thoughts today, sweet friend. God bless you !

  • Reply Phil Eaton July 24, 2017 at 10:24 pm

    What an absolutely beautiful tribute, Jan. I can imagine your aunt up there nodding in appreciation for your loving words. Keep those loving words coming for all of us too. We are blessed. You’re the best.

  • Reply Dale Lefever July 24, 2017 at 11:25 pm

    What a wonderful tribute. Will you write mine? God is not a stickler for facts, so assume some literary license! Once again, you remind all of us we cannot enjoy memories, if we don’t invest in making them.

    Blessings, Dale

  • Reply Madeline July 25, 2017 at 2:45 am

    Sorry for your loss

  • Reply Valerie McCoy July 25, 2017 at 2:50 am

    I was reminded today, after reading your gentle offering, of Chad’s video tribute to his Dad. Jud was eloquently reflecting on his life and he said, (as the end was near), “I am not a desperate man…I know where I’m going”. And so it is with your precious Aunt Joyce.
    Take heart, lovely Jan, for your favorite aunt knew where she was going.
    I send my love and continued admiration, for your writings continue to be about what is most urgent in this complicated life… be loved and heard. You accomplish that with each writing.

  • Reply wendy lane July 25, 2017 at 2:29 pm

    So beautiful. Read it twice – will read it again later to Steve. Such a heritage you have – actually a lot of similarities with Steve’s family. He will really appreciate this one, you wrote it so colorfully, as always. His Dad, my beloved father in love, had 1 brother and 5 sisters. Between them all they had 39 children. Several years ago we had a 50th reunion with Steve’s family – over 400 showed up. It was fabulous. Each morning one young man did a devotional his great grandfather had done 50 years before. God was honored and we had great fellowship. Nothing like a bond between 2 followers of Jesus, usually immediately! I hadn’t met most of them, but left feeling I’d known them a long time. Oh, and Steve’s Dad’s sister married Steve’s Mom’s brother 🙂
    Love you!

  • Reply Russ Bishop July 25, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    I’m even closer–waiting for “strike three, you’re out”.

  • Reply Rita Dove July 25, 2017 at 9:31 pm

    Sending you love, prayer and hugs, dear Jan. It’s such a gift to have loved and been loved; so difficult to be separated; and so wonderful to know the separation is temporary! Thanks be to God! We are all one day closer to seeing Him who loves us, and to being reunited with those loved ones he gave us! I can’t wait!

  • Reply Polly Ann Brown July 26, 2017 at 9:54 pm

    Thank you, Jan. I love the way you receive whatever you are given, however — served from a 9 x 13 pyrex dish, a verse in Ephesians, a Gaither song, the home-going of a favorite aunt, the vision of her hugging a beloved husband — with an open heart, a gift for turning it into blessing, and a willingness to invite us all to the Table.

    Love, Polly Ann

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