Saturday, January 12, 2008

To Aunt Ruth From Tootle

My Aunt Ruth died this week. We all went to today's funeral service. I decided several weeks ago that both girls were old enough to attend the service and that they would benefit from having the opportunity to say goodbye to their beloved aunt. The casket was open until the church service began, and both girls were relieved to see Aunt Ruth looking peaceful and beautiful, far different than she looked when we visited the nursing home over Christmas. Tootle asked to go up and view the body several times and told me that she liked playing with Aunt Ruth and that she misses her. The girls enjoyed hearing stories about Aunt Ruth that they hadn't heard before.

Most children were a bit afraid of Aunt Ruth. She lost most of her hearing after a childhood illness so she wore a hearing aid and talked very loudly. Doodle always connected more with the aunt who Aunt Ruth lived with, but Tootle was different. She loved Aunt Ruth form the moment she met her. When we visited, Tootle spent much of the time sitting on Aunt Ruth's lap or standing beside her chair showing her things and asking her to play. Today when Tootle became a bit restless during the service, I handed her an index card I had in my purse and a pen. She drew a flower and then wrote From Tootle. Next she added a "To" and whispered, "How do you spell Aunt Ruth?" I told her, and after she was finished writing the name, she added another flower and a sun to her picture. When the church service ended, she told me that she wanted the drawing for her aunt to go on top of the casket. As I held back tears, I told her that we would try to make it happen. After consulting with the relatives who were in charge of the arrangements, we gave the card to the undertaker who slipped the card in so that it peeked out of the beautiful flower arrangement on top of the casket. When the graveside service ended, the undertaker made sure that Tootle could see that her card was in place. I sometimes am in awe of my children, and this was one of those times. I was so touched that Tootle would think to make a drawing that would be with Aunt Ruth's physical body forever. It was the perfect gesture to bring Tootle some closure. Doodle hasn't found closure yet. She is asking a lot of questions, some spiritual (about heaven) and others scientific (about the blood that was in her body), and I expect that the questions will continue for a few more days. As sad as we are about Aunt Ruth's death, I think the girls' first funeral was a beautiful experience for both of them.

As I remembered my aunt today, I kept coming back to one of my favorite memories of her. As a young adult I once attended Christmas Eve service with her at her hometown church where she was in charge of virtually everything. I had never heard her sing before, but that night she sang out loud and clear as the congregation sang Joy to the World and Silent Night. I discovered that she was utterly tone deaf, something that she probably knew, but that knowledge didn't stop her from belting out her joy over Jesus's birth. When the service ended, white haired 60 some year old Aunt Ruth raced to the front to manage the distribution of poinsettias. Aunt Ruth was totally in her element: confident, caring, and in charge. Aunt Ruth, I hope that you no longer need your hearing aid and that you could hear today's praises and remembrances as your family and friends gathered in that little church that you so loved.

1 comment:

Beverly said...

I am so sorry to read of your loss. man have I been out of touch.