Last week I ventured up to Duluth with Owen and Lisa to attend the funeral of my Auntie Jannie. The weather was not ideal and it took us longer than expected. I had intended to check into our hotel room before meeting Bill who drove Aunt Susie up from Minneapolis. They ended up arriving before us and we went straight to the funeral home to meet them. Susie was happily sitting in a chair, dangling her legs, and "pigging out" (as she would say) on cheese, crackers, and sausage.
Jannie was Susie's only sister and it was imperative that Susie be there for the funeral. Growing up, her family mistakenly chose to shelter her from unpleasant news. So, when her dog died she was told it ran away. When an uncle died he was just not talked about. When her mother got sick it was glossed over, and when she died Susie didn't know how to cope. I made sure Susie was prepared for the death of her sister. I told her as soon as Jannie was diagnosed with cancer and kept her informed throughout the brief illness. Sue knew all along that the cancer was going to take her sister.
We visited with relatives, watched a slide show, read the cards on the flowers, reminisced over the photos on display, and shared memories about Janet at the funeral home on Thursday evening.
Susie shared, and talked, and laughed, and cried, and shared some more. Looking at the pictures of the family when they were young, when I remembered our family spending weekends at the house and extended visits to the cabin, brought the tears to my eyes. My memories of those times are happy ones.
When we returned to the hotel Owen, Lisa, and Sue changed into swimsuits and we headed for the pool.
Owen and Lisa enjoyed the swim time immensely! The lengthy stay at the funeral home had not been all drudgery for them as they enjoyed getting reacquainted with all of the second cousins. Jannie had fifteen grandchildren and six of them were close to the ages of Owen and Lisa--three boys for Owen and three girls for Lisa.
Even though the funeral didn't start until 11 AM on Saturday it took us a full three hours to get dressed, eat, pack, load up, and get in the car. Susie only observes one time zone--the SLOW ZONE.
It was a bit of a balancing act making sure that Sue was an appropriate part of the family during the funeral, but also making sure she didn't take over and step on the emotions of Jannie's five children. I think we managed to accomplish both.
A real highlight for Susie was being able to see her brother, David.
Dave had to be introduced to a few of the nieces and nephews and when he ducked out during the luncheon he hugged me and said, "When you say good-bye to everyone say good-bye from me, too." I was sorry to have to tell my cousins that their uncle who had blown in with the wind had also blown out as quickly and unnoticed. But, that's just his way.
In all, I think I walked away from the funeral feeling like most people feel after such a time--asking myself why it takes a death to bring us all together in one room--and thinking about how much the one who is gone would have loved to see everyone together. I think I am due for a few reunions.
The Way We Were--Summer 1974
Back--Danny, Uncle Rick Front--Jannie, Patrick, me, Gypsy, Kathleen, Tom, Kathy, Tony
I distinctly remember arriving at the lake on this particular trip--driving up the road, getting out of the car, and walking up to the cabin . My baby sister, Kari, was just a few weeks old and my parents had not wanted to make the trip and bring her if it would upset Jan. Just a few months earlier Jan had lost her fourth full term baby--a little boy (she would lose one more several years later). Jan insisted that we come up to the cabin, so we did. I remember sensing an uneasy feeling from my parents as we made our way across the grass, Mom carrying baby Kari. I don't remember who all came out to meet us. I only remember seeing my Auntie Jannie walking toward us with a big smile and tears running down her face. She walked straight to Kari and took her from Mom and hugged and held her, that same smile beaming on all of us as the tears continued to flow. She laughed at herself and called herself a name, maybe a "sentimental fool" or something like that and hugged us kids with her free arm to let us know she was OK. My parents later talked about how glad they were that they made that trip and how much good it did Jan to be able to hold her baby niece. I wish Kari had been in this picture, taken by my Dad, but it is evident that she must have been in the cabin being taken care of by Mom.
The Way We Are--Gypsy, Kathleen, and me
Danny, Tony, Pat, and Susie