I went to a funeral yesterday, at a lovely little old Lutheran church in my ancestral town of Grasston, Minnesota. My dear great aunt Ellen passed away at the age of 97 years. I had not seen her since she became a resident at a nursing home in southwestern Minnesota, near her daughter, about a dozen years ago. Her memory had been failing her in recent years, so I believe she was ready to be with Jesus her lord and her dear husband Sigurd.
My memories of Aunt Ellie were of how she made her house open to my family as much as she would her own children. Holidays were spent there, with all the extended family and hugs and kisses for all. She enjoyed having the family over and taking pictures. I never heard her complain about anything.
Today really made me think. About family, which while tenuous at times, is really the only sure thread we have in this life. It ties us to people in the present, and events in the past. My cousin Sandy, Ellen's daughter in law, put together a wonderful scrapbook about Ellen's and my grandma's family. I was paging through it after the funeral, and for once I felt a real sense of the story that brought me where I am today. My great great grandpa John (Lindroth) Swan came to Minnesota from Sweden in 1868. He homesteaded just outside of the town where the funeral was held. There were old pictures, news clippings, and stories of life on the farm, narrated by my own grandma. Precious. I will be writing my cousin and requesting copies of her family files.
And, I have to talk some more with my grandma. She is the only surviving member of that family, the one that saw the beginning of automobiles and telephones and electricity, that witnessed the death of small family farms in the area in the years after World War II and farm policy, that lived to see the assassination of JFK and 9-11. But, she lived in the times of dances with live bands at Fish Lake Pavilion, in the times of sewing and cooking and family celebrations.
It's hard to believe life 97 years ago was so simple. Perhaps there's a lesson to be learned.