Last week, several members of my family gathered in Buffalo, NY to say goodbye to the eldest matriarch in our Webber family, my Aunt Shirley Webber Hall. She was one of the kindness people I have known, a gentle spirit and generous soul. It was quite humbling and touching to see people gather and unanimously speak about her kind and loving soul.
(This picture shows my Dad Lester Webber with his little sister Shirley.) So great to see my Dad as a kid! We even saw movies, so old they had no sound!
One of the benefits of the trip was coming across old photo albums of the family, dating back into the early 1900’s (see featured image). The clothes, the cars, the humble homes and smiling faces. I was transported back to childhood, memories of visiting my grandparents In Buffalo and reunifying with my Northern cousins.
Oh the memories … picking flowers in my grandmother’s garden, sharing a hammock with my cousins Randy and Janet, eating a six course meal at my Aunt Lyd’s, petting her dog Skipper, breaking my grandmother’s bird feeder, and one of my all time favorites … playing badminton.
I had a full circle moment last week when saying our final goodbye to Aunt Shirley, who was buried next to my grandfather’s and grandmother’s graves. Grandma’s was the first funeral I had witnessed as a child. I recall walking tentatively and unsteadily to the casket to view my first dead relative. My thought, amidst the trembling, was … the life in her was clearly missing. She didn’t look like the grandma I knew. My second thought was wanting to kick the shins of her elderly friends who commented that she looked a little puffy and they didn’t like her lipstick. How dare they! People can be a little weird at funerals.
On this trip, my cousin Janet and I recalled our memories of that funeral day in 1974, so scared of saying goodbye to our dear Grandma. There we were, two little girls, cousins, holding hands in the pew, nervously giggling. Our not-so-silent giggling quickly turning to tears. Grandma had given us so much love and we would miss her so. We didn’t know what the world would look like without her.
And now, here we were again, together, holding hands and weeping, saying goodbye to another great Webber woman, her mom. Another life well lived. A kind soul put to rest who will be sorely missed.
One’s own mortality comes to mind during these times. What will people say about me at my funeral? Will my daughter stand up and say I was a loving, great mom, like Janet said about hers, touching everyone’s heart. (Or will she mostly remember by parental fails, of which there we many. Some day she’ll see it’s not as easy as it looks!) Will folks laugh at my antics, as they did Aunt Shirley’s? Will so many people sit in an old pew that it cracks in half, with grown men badly stifling their smiles? (This happened during Shirley’s service). Will cousins gather and remember their innocent childhood memories? Will tears be shed?
What will I do between now and then that matters? Hopefully I will be remembered as a loving person who made a positive difference in people’s lives and in the world. I’m sure someone will recount something I wouldn’t want to recall. But, that’s what being human is all about, the “good, bad” and the sometimes painfully hysterical. All in all, I hope I made a few people laugh, brightened their day, help them feel loved.
Above all else, I hope I help people remember who they truly are — amazing, infinite beings who have great memories of this wild ride called life.
Maybe a few people will shed tears when it’s time to say goodbye to you and me. I’m pretty certain of that. Every person makes a difference. Even if we don’t realize it.