My Aunt Judy passed away last night. I was fortunate to see her, for what turned out to be the last time, a week ago at our family reunion back in Wisconsin. She'd been through a lot of health problems in recent years, but her mind was sharp until the very end.
She was the younger sister (and sometime tormentor) of my father when they were growing up in Kimberly, Wisconsin. It's a role younger sisters play and she was good at it. Aunt Judy was good at most anything she set her mind to doing. She was smart, resourceful, generous and always patient. She was a schoolteacher, a farmer's wife and the mother of five talented children, who have all done very well in life.
She and my Uncle Frank took me and my brothers into their home when we were young, at a time when my mother was struggling with illness. These events happened over 40 years ago, in the spring of 1969, when we were too young to understand what was happening. I was five years old at the time and I remember romping around the farm with my cousins. My brothers and my cousins, for reasons that are clear only to five-year-old boys, started calling ourselves the "Generosity Boys." We didn't exactly know what it meant, I think, and only later did I understand the amount of generosity we were experiencing at the time. I also remember Aunt Judy taking the time to explain why Walter Cronkite was telling me that President Eisenhower had died, and why that mattered. She could be a teacher any time it was necessary. It wasn't the last time Aunt Judy helped me understand why something mattered, either.
When things were tough, her advice was that we should "storm the gates of Heaven" with prayer. Now she's on her way to the gates of Heaven and I suspect she's arriving with plenty of momentum. My thoughts are with my Uncle Frank and my cousins -- Dan, Steve, Lois, Gerry and Sarah. They have a journey to complete as well, but I know they'll manage it with grace. Aunt Judy taught them well.