She had been in a nursing home for about two weeks, in my hometown of Evansville, Indiana. My Mom’s best friend, Janet, went to visit her today for the first time. Janet had been reading her bible yesterday and a little paper card fell out. It was the card from my great-great Aunt Mattie’s funeral. Aunt Mattie and Janet’s mother were great friends. In fact, Janet’s mother was by Mattie’s side when she passed. When she saw this card, Janet reflected on this friendship. She decided to go visit Aunt Ag, who was residing in the same nursing home as Janet’s mother.
Janet arrived at the nursing home, and after saying hello and patting her arm, found Aunt Ag to be unresponsive. What she did notice was the “feisty, happy” look on Aunt Ag’s face. Upon taking her pulse, she discovered it was very faint. She called in the nurses and waited in the hallway. Ten minutes later, the staff returned and said she had passed away. Janet was at her side while she believes she was “in transition” from this world to the next. As a nurse, Janet explained that she has seen many faces of those in the same place…some are in agony, some are sad. Aunt Ag’s face was happy.
My Aunt Ag loved to eat, but like many of us, she didn’t like to readily admit it. When she visited, our family’s little joke was mischievously offer her plate upon plate of different snacks and food. At first she would say “Oh, no, I’m not hungry”…but during conversation, one of us would casually slide a plate of food closer to Aunt Ag. Before you knew it – “caught a fish!” – Aunt Ag had devoured the food. A few minute later, another plate would be slid in her direction…and like clockwork, the food would disappear. Upon tasting a sweet pie, she would laugh and say “Ohhhh, this tastes so good! I haven’t eaten pie in 2 years!” She seemed to forget that she’d just eaten pie perhaps a few weeks earlier at our house. But, alas, she’d then say “Ohh, now I have to eat something salty”. From sweet to salty and back again. The silly food circus would continue and leave us smiling.
A few years ago, my Mom and sister took Aunt Ag sightseeing in St. Louis. That morning, they had taken a pit stop at Cracker Barrel and indulged in some down home biscuits and gravy. Afterwards, while attending Sunday mass at Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, a noxious smell erupted from their “pew” (pun intended). Aunt Ag peered over at Mom and right in the middle of mass, cackled “Ohhhh, them biscuits and gravy!!” What followed was a resounding echo in one of St. Louis’ oldest and most respected basilicas. So, when visiting Aunt Ag, I would joke with her about “them biscuits and gravy” and she would giggle and relive the event.
My Aunt Ag lived on Delaware St. in a cozy apartment. She loved to play BINGO and eat at the Knotty Pine Café. She was frugal, close with her money, but had sweet, deep soul. She was recently seen using a broom as a cane. She’d call my Mom and ask her to go shopping for Diet Coke and groceries. I would always ask to tell me about her BINGO experiences. She would put her hand on my knee, lean in towards me and say “Do you know that the girls I play with just don’t really like me?” I would inquire as to why and she would say, in an almost whisper, “Well, ya know, when I win they just think I’m some ‘rich bitch’”. We would laugh. We would always laugh.
Aunt Ag loved a great gold, sparkly walkin’ shoe and matching purse. She would gladly flaunt her costume jewelry and nylon jogging suits. She’d often show her freshly permed and colored hair and would ask “how do you like my new makeup”. In fact, one time she let her normally red hair turn natural gray. She told us again and again how her friends thought her gray hair was just “so beautiful”. The world revolved around Aunt Ag. At least she thought so. I was happy to let her believe it.
She would always show off her newest pictures of her son, Donnie, and of her travels and cruises. In the photos, there was Aunt Ag…gold shoes and handbag, flowered cotton t-shirt, matching pants, pink lipstick, cheeks just a bit too rosy from blush, and a big ol’ smile on her face.
She fed a cat every day which she named Nuisance. One of our favorite items in her home was a bean-filled fabric frog which, when flipped over, revealed anatomically correct male parts. She thought it was hilarious and so did we. So one day, she gave it to us. That was a big deal.
This past summer, on our cross-country road trip, Jason and I stopped by Aunt Ag’s house for a visit (the photo above was taken during that visit). In our arms was our three month old baby Kaia. Aunt Ag was beside herself with happiness to see our baby girl. She couldn’t believe how beautiful she was. Later, my Mom shared with me that Aunt Ag couldn’t stop talking about Kaia… “Now, I’m not saying this just because she’s related to me, but that Kaia is the most beautiful baby I have ever seen.” I think meeting Kaia was the highlight of Aunt Ag’s year. I’m grateful I was able to share those bittersweet moments with Aunt Ag.
A few weeks ago, Aunt Ag told her son Donnie that she had a recent “premonition” in which she saw her Mother. It seems she must have known her time was approaching.
“In the world of the ancient Celts, people believed the world of the living and the world of the dead exist side by side. Only a thin veil separated them. One night in all the year, the veil is lifted. We can suddenly “see” that we are standing right at the edge, where the two worlds meet. And on that night, souls can cross over, go back and forth across the threshold.”
I only wish I could have shared one more meal with Aunt Ag. I’m sure it would have been biscuits and gravy. And pie.