Tante Lois was ten years older than my mom, so in some ways she filled the empty spot a grandmother would have filled had either of mine still been alive when I was born. Every summer I spent a week with Aunt Lois. She had four sons but no daughters, so she called me "her girl." I was such a shy child, often overlooked because I was so quiet and unobtrusive, but with Aunt Lois I felt special. Important. Unconditionally loved.
I carry so many wonderful memories of her. She smelled like her kitchen--like bread and sausage and cabbage. Sweet smells. I loved time with her in the kitchen, both of us wearing aprons, pinching off smooth balls of dough and stacking them to create zwiebach--nobody made zweibach more tasty than Aunt Lois's. I tried and tried to make them, but mine weren't the same. Her smidgen of salt and lump of butter were measured by her palm, not mine, so I could never get the flavor right.
Tante Lois with my oldest daughter in 1983.
We lived next door at that time, and she took us for coffee and doughnuts frequently.
Kristian's first full sentence was, "Get Tante, go coffee."
Nobody hugged like Aunt Lois, either. When she embraced you, you knew you'd been embraced. Sometimes I found it hard to breathe caught within the tight grip of her arms. But I never complained. Each time she hugged me, she whispered in my ear, "You're my special Kim." I never doubted her sincerity.
At bedtime, Aunt Lois would sit at the piano and play hymns, one after another, transitioning so smoothly it was like one continuous melody. Up and down the keyboard her fingers would fly, never a song book in sight. What a gift she had, to hear the music in her head and transfer it to the keys so the rest of us could enjoy it as well. When she had to leave her house and move to the rest home, her piano went, too, and the residents there looked forward to her nightly concerts.
These past weeks as cancer invaded her body and she became frail and weary, her bright spirit never faded. And I discovered I wasn't the only one who loved my aunt. The rest home aides visited her room frequently, and without exception they expressed how much they loved her. The workers at the local Wendy's, where she'd met with her "supper ladies" on a regular basis, came in nearly every day to see how she was doing. Church people, community people, people I'd never met...all took the time to visit her. She touched so many lives.
The day before I left for the cruise I visited Aunt Lois and told her I'd be gone for several days but as soon as I returned I'd come see her. On that day, she was sitting in her recliner, her swollen legs too weak to allow her to stand, but when I leaned in I got one of her famous hugs and--just as I'd come to expect--she whispered, "You're my special Kim." I told her I loved her and she told me the same, then she added, "I will pray for you."
As I'd promised, my first day back I headed for Hillsboro to see her. This time she lay in bed with a tube feeding oxygen into her nose. Morphine administered by hospice workers kept her comfortable but groggy. I wondered if she'd know I was there, but when I touched her shoulder and spoke her name, she opened her eyes. An expression of recognition broke across her drawn face, and she lifted her hand to cup my cheek--the only way she could hug me. Indistinguishable whispers rasped from her throat, but even though my ears couldn't understand the words, my heart knew what she was saying: "You're my special Kim."
That final afternoon I bid her goodbye. It was time for her to go. My spunky aunt did not belong trapped in that cancer-ravaged shell. I told her she wasn't dying but was entering life everlasting. I asked her to save a place for me at the banqueting table, and I asked her to greet my grandparents for me. Fewer than twelve hours later, she stepped from this world into Glory where I know she opened her arms to give Jesus one of her famous hugs and then ran on healthy legs to her parents, husband, and brothers. And from there I'm absolutely positive she took the position of accompanist for the angel choirs.
The Hubs and I visited Tante Lois before Christmas this past year, and she put on a mini-concert for us. She was troubled by one key, which she said was out of tune, but I thought the music was beautiful. Bet you will, too. (Sorry it's sideways--I don't know how to turn it.)
Please keep our family and Lois's many friends in your prayers as we adjust to life without her sweet presence. Especially pray for my mom, who lost her remaining sibling with Aunt Lois's passing--her entire family now waits for her in Heaven. Even with the assurance she'll see them all again, she feels a bit bereft being the only one left behind.
Telling my dear tante goodbye was one of the hardest things I've ever done. But envisioning her hello on the other side--greeting the Savior she loved and so faithfully served and being reunited with her family members who've gone on before--makes my heart sing even through my tears. I'm so grateful that Jesus made the promise to prepare a place for us. I hope my mansion is next door to Tante Lois's so I can "Get Tante, go coffee" every day for eternity.
May God bless you muchly as you journey with Him! ~Kim