Planting Seeds of Attitude

Aunt Edna was Mom’s sister and has been special to brother Paul and me since our parents’ death  in 1972, nearly 40 years ago. In many ways, Edna and her husband Earl (Earl was my dad’s brother and passed away 25 years ago in 1986) stepped into the role of parents for Paul and me when our parents died in an auto crash. Edna and Earl had no children of their own, so we could form this close family relationship naturally. They would serve as grandparents to our kids as well.

Edna passed away on Friday, and her funeral is at 11:00 AM this morning — in about four hours. Yesterday was the visitation at the funeral home that saw so many of Edna’s friends stop by. We had prepared a basket of Fun-sized Snicker bars and affixed a sign on it, “Take one, aw take two, Love Edna.” Many commented on the perfection of this gesture as typifying Edna’s magnanimous generosity — visitors and nurses alike would not leave her room without being offered candy, often in the form of a Fun-sized Snicker bar.

Edna was unusually alert for being in a nursing home. She had lived in this nursing home for over a decade. Her encephalitis, or whatever it was — the diagnosis was never really clear, had put her there. She could not drive or take care of the details of life.  But mentally she could engage folks with her ever-present smile and inspiring attitude toward life.

Among other limitations, the encephalitis had left her unable to taste. She could tell hot from cold, but could not taste the foods she had loved. Yet when we would go out for dinner — which she loved to do — she would always comment on the food — “This must be really good,” she would say, not in regret that she could not taste it but in appreciation for whoever had prepared it and for the opportunity to get out to eat it. Add a seven and seven, and she was a happy camper. And her dear friends Malinda and Gerald would take her out every Friday night to one of their favorite restaurants in Canton. It had become a tradition that blessed both parties.

Many would send her flowers. When Paul and I would do that, the next phone call would be about how these flowers were “the most beautiful she had ever seen.” Even a simple phone call would be concluded with, “Thanks for calling, you made my day.”

Her pastor, Pastor Paul Lohse from St. Peter’s Lutheran Church down the road in LaGrange Missouri, shared with us that when he visited the nursing home, Edna’s was always the last room he visited. Why last? Edna so lifted his spirits, he shared. “She was a woman of deep faith,” he witnessed. “You just felt better about yourself when you left Edna’s room.” And this was attested to by the nurses at the nursing home. Pastor Lohse went on to say that Edna affected more people than we could even imagine. What a tribute to this woman going on 93.

Edna kept a journal. Apparently she had done this her entire life, though the only volumes we found were those for the past two years. An entry was made every day — documenting what she had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner — remember now, she could not taste — and noting every phone call, every card sent, and nearly visit to her room — be that a guest or a nurse bringing her her meals or medicine.

In her journal she also recorded her prayers to the Lord and statements acknowledging that she read her devotions and bible every day. The photo of Jesus hung prominently on her wall. And photos — maybe 40 in all — covered her closet door at the foot of her bed. She loved photos to remind her of all her family and friends.

My daughters Nancy and Sherri each drove 400 miles or so to be at the funeral today. They loved Edna in a special way. Sherri, with her four boys, had visited Edna just ten days before Edna died. She was the last relative to see Edna alive. Sherri shared that as she left Edna’s room Edna’s and her eyes locked. It was as if both knew this would be the last time they would see each other. Both wept spontaneously. Such was the love felt between them.  This incident alone brings tears to my eyes.

I am taking this all in with gratitude. Gratitude for Edna and all she stood for and all she offered. As my brother said, Edna was the spirit of Jesus touching lives around her with her love and gracious always-positive demeanor. I’ll remember Aunt Edna as one who planted seeds of attitude on this planet. May these seeds of attitude sprout in the hearts of all who were touched by her life and her being. I love you Edna.  Bye now.