Journey 203: Aunt Jeanie’s Homecoming

My earthly family became smaller today, as my Aunt Jeanie entered into eternity. She was a sister to my dad and my Uncle Rex and my Aunt Glenda, fraternal twin to my Aunt June. They turned 80 on July 7. Unfortunately, Aunt Jeanie entered into the hospital on that day, and was unable to join the family birthday celebration that was held on July 11. Today, she departed this life, on Uncle Rex’s birthday.

dad and sibs e

Aunt Glenda, Dad, Aunt June, Uncle Rex, Aunt Jeanie

Bessie Jean was one of six kids, the children of my grandparents, Dennis and Grace Lauderdale. Growing up in Tulsa OK, I frequently spent time with my cousins, aunts and uncles, all of whom lived nearby, except for Aunt Glenda and her family, who remained in southwest Missouri after the rest of the family moved to Oklahoma. We spent time together, my cousins, sisters and I, especially during those magical summer months….running, bicycling, playing, and swimming.

As I moved through my day today, I let memoires of my aunt rise up. Her playfulness and laughter were contagious. She and my grandmother owned and operated a hamburger drive-in for a time, near my grandmother’s home in Tulsa. I loved spending an afternoon there, “working”, getting paid with ice cream cones and freshly grilled hamburgers.

My aunt journeyed joyfully through life, even though she encountered more tragedy than seemed fair, sometimes. Her baby sister died as a toddler. Her father, my grandfather, passed at a relatively young age. Aunt Jeanie cared for her mother, my grandmother, until her death. She said temporary but painful good-byes to three of her five children, one precious grandson, and more recently, a brother (my dad) and another sister (Aunt Glenda). Her health has been precarious these last five or six years, and yet, I know, through all these things, she fought the good fight, lived life well, loved her family, chose hope over despair.

Dad and siblings Bond Bread

Rex, June, Jean, Glenda, Curt…holding loaves of Bond Bread

I last saw her shortly after my father’s death, when the family gathered at the home of my sister Debbie, to remember my dad and share stories, shed tears. It was the last time, also, that I saw all five of the remaining siblings together, little Margaret having passed years and years ago. I feel sad, looking at the pictures from that day, knowing my dad, my aunts, and my cousin Mindy are now captured in memory and photos, but have traveled on in their journeys.

One of my favorite things about Aunt Jeanie was that she always said, “Aunt Jeanie loves you”, as she gave me a hug or a kiss. Never in the first person, I love you, but always in the third person. It was an endearing, charming expression that was uniquely hers. My sisters and I would wait for that phrase, and smile with delight. Not too long ago, Aunt Jeanie made a technology leap and got on Facebook, finding it a great way to stay in touch with family.

Last December, a few days before Christmas, I was up late and on the computer. On Facebook a message box opened up. It was Aunt Jeanie. She told me about falling, and breaking her back in three places. Rather than complain about that, she said she was grateful to be alive and wrote about how good God was to her. She sent blessings, and asked me to say hi to my mom, and said that she missed her. The remark that made me smile though, was her opening line….”Hi Cindy. Your Aunt Jeanie loves you girls.” I love you too, Aunt Jeanie. I am grateful to have had you in my life. Journey on, dear lady, and journey well. And we will all see you again.

Dad and family

The Lauderdales: back row – Rex, Grace & Dennis, front row – Glenda, Curt, June & Jean