January 6, 2015

In the bleak midwinter...

New Year's Day began with the sad news of my aunt's passing.  Although she had been struggling with health issues for some time, and had recently been moved to hospice care, the news was still a shock.  Aunt Carol, affectionately know as TOB (tough old bird) by those that loved her, left us with enough happy memories and funny stories to shore us up when the grief threatens to catch hold.  She had planned her funeral down to the very last details, including instructions to the pastor to start the song over if we didn't sing with enough gusto!  So sing we did, with hearts full of love even if they were breaking just a little at her absence.

Aunt Carol on the left, my mother on the right
Carol was my dad's baby sister, and after my dad's passing she was a wonderful companion for my mother---they shared a passion for playing cards and treating themselves to McDonald's ice cream sundaes!  She was a dedicated nurse, and helped deliver countless babies in eastern South Dakota for many years.  She worked the night shift and would often stop by on her way to the hospital for a little night chat with my parents.  I always stood in awe of her amazing ability to pull whatever she needed from her sturdy work brassiere...a hankie, a pack of cigarettes, car keys...you name it, and out it came from its secret hiding place!

My husband and I braved the frosty weather (and by frosty I mean unbelievably freezing cold) and made the trip back to South Dakota.  And while it was lovely to see so many relatives, it was hard to say goodbye, and also difficult to realize we are now one step closer to being the senior generation. We have very big shoes to fill.  We both realize how lucky we have been to have parents, aunts and uncles who cared--who were there for us--and lived their lives in such a way as to serve as remarkable role models for all of us who follow.

I purchased my first "smart phone" just before the new year, so I experimented with my phone's camera on our trip.  The travel from the church to the country cemetery offered some really stark South Dakota scenery, fitting, I suppose, for the sorrow of the day.

As we drove by snow covered fields the lyrics to Christina Rossetti's poem drifted through my mind:

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.
Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.