Waving goodbye to Aunt Mary

Published 5:48 pm Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The ground was soaked beneath my feet from all the rain poured on the earth earlier in the day. I stood behind my cousins who were seated under the tent as the sweet scent of pink roses and white lilies filled the air. The sun poked its head from behind the clouds, and I knew then, my Aunt Mary had winked at us all as she waved goodbye. The thought of her doing so placed a smile beneath my tears.

She was the last of the Great Generation in our family. My mother’s youngest sister began Jan. 1, 2019, walking into the arms of God. She was born in the mountains of Tennessee 95 years earlier and “sort of” welcomed by her older siblings.  Since Mary was four years younger, the other two thought two’s company and three’s a crowd numerous times which left Mary alone in the dust on many a playground. A few years passed, and the world became a little noisier when Mary found her voice. Once she began talking, she did not stop for 95 straight years. Beautiful Mary with a twinkle in her eyes and a smile warming her face ignored the sideways glances of her family when the noise reached a fever pitch, and she continued with another story or ten.

After I was born, my mother would laughingly proclaim, “The Lord is paying me back for ignoring Mary. The minute you learned to talk, I knew my sister would be with me for the rest of life.”

Yes, Mary and I were molded by the same humorous God who tends to switch things up when babies are born into families.

Mary bore three sons with a husband who was as quiet as a church mouse and as giving as the Lord himself. She now rests beside the love of her life on a hill not far from where she came into this world. Those of us who waved goodbye know with certainty that Heaven got a bit louder, a bit sunnier, and a family is having a glorious reunion where no one will be left alone again on a playground.

After the service, our little family gathered to laugh at the stories Mary provided in our lives and reminisce over shared childhoods and years gone by.

“Mike, how did this happen?” I questioned my cousin, whom I had not seen in years.

He knew without replying, precisely what I meant as we scanned the crowd and realized we were the oldest members of the clan. As children, Mike was always my partner in crime and fun. He was a year older than I was, and I adored him. Now as we observed our family, we both couldn’t grasp the swiftness of life, and the knowledge that all those we once looked to for guidance were now gone. Mary, like most of us wasn’t famous, but her presence gave us an award because she was full of love. She never held an executive position at a Fortune 500 company, but fortunes couldn’t purchase her richness. She never attended a super bowl, but instead, was at every ball game ever played by her three boys and grandchildren who declared her “super.” 

After World War II, beaus became husbands and life was filled with grateful hearts who longed for nothing more than to be safe at home.  Most of those who endured those difficult times during the Great Depression and the war did not complain about trivial matters but instead weathered life’s sorrows while keeping their heads high and needs low.

Most of the members of the Greatest Generation have passed on to glory. Their stories will be told through those who they touched with their lives. There was a reason they came to this world and a reason we should all cherish — they saved our country and taught us the meaning of patriotism and unity.

Now we are left to tell other generations who these folks were. We need to carry their courage and love of family and country forward by never forgetting the Mary’s, the soldiers, the fathers and mothers who believed in God, pulling us to church and pushing us to get an education. The Greatest Generation who thought that fame never held a candle to the fire burning in their homes on a piece of land they earned in America.

For those who waved goodbye with a twinkle in their eyes, my prayer is one of thanksgiving for their love, their selflessness, and the indelible mark they left in our hearts.

Goodbye sweet, fun-loving, beautiful Mary. Every time I think of you, I find I am smiling. Is there a more glorious legacy to leave?