Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Last of the Anderson Women

Last week I attended the funeral of my great-aunt, Luzon. She was 94 years old and never lost any of her mental power; her wit, intelligence, and incredible capacity to love others stayed with her right up to the end. She was part of the Anderson clan; one of my grandmother’s many sisters. Of all my extended relatives, the Andersons were the only ones who played a part in my growing up. My grandmother died before I was born, but her sisters were strong, wonderful women who continued to care for and comfort us. Because of them, I know what my grandmother must have been like.

Aunt Luzon did nothing that would make news, but she was remarkable in many ways and has left an imprint on my life that I will treasure forever. She became a nurse and then married in her early twenties, but this was during WWII and her husband, a B-17 pilot, was shot down over Italy and killed five years after she married him. Devastated she moved back home with her widowed mother to help on the farm. In 1948 she married Verl Peterson, but they were never able to have children. You’d think that being 94 and outliving two husbands, all of your friends, and not having children would mean that the funeral would be very sparsely attended. Not so. There were more flowers and people than most funerals. But more amazing was the family gathering before the funeral. Every niece and nephew felt as if they were Aunt Luzon’s favorite. She had a wonderful gift for making you feel like the most important person in the world whenever you were with her. She delighted in the small things in life and demonstrated a rare contentment and peace with whatever life handed her.

When I was ten and my father was deathly ill, she and my Aunt Helen made the long trip from Richfield to Brigham City to take care of us for a few days. It was at the time when hula hoops were big and every one at school had a hula hoop except me and my brother. I remember recess in those days as a sea of swirling color as the playground turned into a mass of spinning hoops. I hadn’t even asked my mother for one because she spent most of her time at the hospital and the few moments she was home she was preoccupied and distant. But when Aunt Helen and Aunt Luzon came they bought my brother and me a hula hoop to share without us even asking for it. They didn’t have much money and I knew it was a sacrifice for them which made the gift all the more valuable. The next day as I joined the others on the play ground, adding my yellow hula hoop to the sea of spinning color, I felt such a surge of love for my aunts who had moved me from lonely onlooker to joyful participant. To this day I wonder if that is why yellow is my favorite color.

I will miss Aunt Luzon, but she isn’t gone. She will always be with me. She is the last of the original Anderson women–strong, vibrant, loving, witty, headstrong, and caring women who shaped me. I am so grateful to be an Anderson woman and pray that I can live up to the heritage they gave me.


connie said...

Sniff, sniff...this was such a beautiful tribute to a lovely sounding woman! I didn't expect to get teary! I am sorry for your loss.

Laresa said...

Wow that even made me cry. What a wonderful tribute. I also find out so much about you when I read these posts.

Wendi said...

I love your description of her: we'd all be better off in life if we were content and at peace with what life hands us.