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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