Allen and I spent Memorial Day weekend visiting his great-aunt up in Indiana, and despite a rough start on Friday and Saturday (lack of sleep + lots of stress = grouchy) we really ended up having a good time. Despite her age and dodgy hearing, Aunt Kathy can really be a hoot. She and Allen joked around, and she can be pretty stubborn when she wants to be :) I was expecting to spend a whole lot of time sitting around in her room, but instead we ended up spending quite a while driving around Wayne County visiting various places she hadn't seen in a while. Saturday, after we took her southern soul to get some chicken and dumplings with okra, we ended up walking around the rose garden (well, Aunt Kathy we wheeled around) and driving around town trying to find her old church, so we'd be sure we could find it in the morning. Then we went back and looked at pictures and talked until she started falling asleep. I've never seen someone (outside of Allen's family) with that many family pictures. I've seen maybe one or two pictures of my grandfather, but Aunt Kathy has dozens and dozens of pictures of her husband. Some are snaps taken during WWII and some are from family events and trips. She's got pictures of her in-laws (taken in the 30's) and her husband's grandparents and her brothers and sisters and so many other people. It just astounds me. Allen and I ended up scanning a fair few just to make sure the family doesn't end up losing them.
The next day I was able to sleep in while Allen took Aunt Kathy to Sunday school. (Have I mentioned lately that my husband rocks?) Fortunately our lodging and her church were close enough together that Allen could slip back and pick me up before services started. It was funny. Allen told me that when he delivered Aunt Kathy to her Sunday school room all the ladies were thrilled to see her and promptly shooed him off to the young men's study. From his telling I was getting a "run along to your own fort, boy, we've got our own right here" impression :) That was the first time I'd been in a Baptist church in umpteen years, and, God love Aunt Kathy, I stood up with them and sang the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" on Memorial Day weekend. I wanted to ask if we could sing "Dixie" afterwards, but I figured that since it doesn't have "hymn" in the title they wouldn't go along with it. (For the record, it doesn't matter if you change the name - the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" is a Yankee military song and has no more place in a church than "Sweet Home Alabama" does. Which is to say, it's not a hymn or psalm or spiritual song.) As for the sermon, I shall pass over it quietly. There are places where Baptists still like their sermons loud and full of vim, but that doesn't mean that they aren't a kindly, friendly lot. Every single member of that church came down from afterwards (at the pastor's request) to hug Aunt Kathy's neck, and that was such a delight to her.
Later that day we went and drove off to find some of the places Aunt Kathy remembered from her newly wed days just after the war. I think she may have pointed out three or four different places where the school teacher lived. I don't know if there were a bunch of school teachers or just one who moved a good bit, and it really didn't matter. She did end up directing us to the cabin Uncle Haskell built for them - it was the last house they lived in together I believe. Every time I go up there I'm reminded of how fragile and short life is. Like those boxes of pictures Aunt Kathy has - those pictures mean the world to her. They mean a lot the generation after her, and they even mean a good bit to Allen and I. But what will they mean to our kids (or if not our kids then the next generation of this family)? It's not something I've gotten my head wrapped around yet, but I think Psalm 103 contains at least part of the answer:
15 As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.
Perhaps, at the end, it is enough that God remembers.