Sunday, December 4, 2011

Bittersweet gathering

As I get older, I find myself attending more funerals than weddings. That's one unpleasant part of the game we call life.
I attended my Aunt Eileen's burial service a few weeks ago, which was held in the beautiful and historic town of Lexington Va.
It was only because of geography and circumstance, that I was not real close to her.
My loss.

As funeral services often go, there was a gathering of relatives, some of whom I haven't seen in 30 years or so. It was so nice to reconnect with distant relatives that I almost feel guilty that it took a death in the family for this to happen.
I'm sure Aunt Eileen understands.

For you Civil War buffs, she was buried in Stonewall Jackson Cemetery (yes, I'm name dropping) where her husband, my Uncle John, was buried in 2007.
You're familiar with the phrase, "They lived a full life" right?

My Aunt and Uncle John took that phrase to another level.
Aunt Eileen was a football coach's wife, zig-zagging the country with her husband as he took jobs in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Lexington before settling in Atlanta Georgia for the last 40 years or so. Uncle John's most successful stop was as football coach at Virginia Military Institute, where all he did was become the winningest coach in VMI history.

Aunt Eileen spent her retirement years staying very active, studying with local artists to stay sharp, and kicking some 5th grader butt while watching the show, "Are you smarter than a 5th grader?" At the age of 63, she earned her real estate license, "just to show that she could," said her daughter Mary.

They traveled during retirement, staying in Elder-hostels and taking classes. I remember my Uncle John telling me he took a Math class in a certain hostel in California. "Keeps the mind sharp," he said. I believe he was in his 70's at the time. One favorite form of exercise for him was sculling. He went on and on, telling me how great sculling was for his body and his mind. Again, he was in his 70's when we had this conversation. He lived for 20 more years. The man knows what he's talking about.

They raised their family Catholic, proud of their Irish heritage and the whole family reeks of Southern Charm.

Before my wife and I left Lexington, we stopped in the local Celtic shop to look around. I struck up a conversation with a woman who was behind the counter, and she asked me what I was doing in Lexington?
I replied that we were in town for a funeral.

She asked, "Mrs. McKenna?"
I said yes, she was my aunt.

Her eyes welled up. "Oh, she was a sweet lady" she said emotionally.
I don't know how they knew each other, but my Aunt and Uncle left Lexington in the 60's.
Obviously, Aunt Eileen left an impression on people.


SueAnn said...

Oh I am so sorry! They both sounded like a fabulous pair! Active, social and with it! What a blessing!

Formerly known as Frau said...

Sorry for your loss she sounds like an amazing women and her husband too.

Marilyn said...

What wonderful memories of a special aunt. Though you didn't see her often I am sure you will treasure the stories and the memories.

Jerral Miles said...

A couple of things: First, I really like the looks of Lexington, Virginia... I'd like to walk the streets there. Second, I'm glad Aunt Eileen move around some... that way lots of different people got to know here.