The world lost a great person on February 20th, 2010, the last in a line of greatness, the last of a generation in my family. However, no flags will be flying at half mast, nor will there be a "laying in state." Naomi Ostien Stanley Ortendahl, aka Aunt Naomi, 92, will be laid to rest in a quiet ceremony attended by a fraction of the people she influenced in her lifetime. The emotions run high with this, bringing back memories of the not so distant death of my own mom. These two sisters, along with their 4 other siblings, contributed more to this world than anyone could understand.
The legacy of these women is not measured in worldly terms and the shoes they leave empty are going to be tough to fill. I realize only now, with the passing of Aunt Naomi, that it is up to my generation to put feet in them.
Their lives exemplified grace, passion and an unshakable faith in God. The grace I witnessed was as natural with them as walking with is to me. Life situations that I can only imagine--watching your children die before you, impossible children (ok, that I can imagine, but not I am not nearly as graceful!), family disagreements--all handled with the poise that comes through the great examples that came before them.
The passion was one for life: the good, the bad and the ugly. From the simple--a child's birthday cake--to the complex--leading a women's Bible study--to the impossible--saying goodbye to a loved one, they handled it with a joie de vivre that can only be fully appreciated with maturity and experience.
Their faith in God was a mainstay in my life. The unwavering belief that God is in control was a crutch leaned on heavily by both of them. This is not to say they were not strong, for in the leaning on God, there was strength derived from Him that increased their faith. It was the type of circle envied by some, misunderstood by others. It was a circle that enclosed them in a tight, comforting embrace that reassured them of their loving Savior. It was the circle from which they witnessed to the thousands of family, friends and strangers who walk across their life paths. It was from this circle they dealt with life's issues and trials. It was this circle that opened to accept all that was given them with humility and trust in God.
I will always associate several things with my Aunt. She was a "professional" cross-stitcher, making the model products for Precious Moments and inspired me, as did my Mom, to embrace that art form. She had a great cherry tree when I was growing up and I, to this day, associate anything cherry with her and relish the crop that comes off my own trees. She had a musical door pull that played when one would open her door. She had a sign, cross-stitched I believe, that said, "Kwitcherbellyachin." It took me a couple of years to get that one!
My Mom was generous to the end. We had just brought home three new kids and the oldest wanted a doll (as is typical with foster children, she came with very few items and none of the usual little girl toys). When Mom finally awakened somewhat from her surgery, she made sure my dad would fulfill that desire if she couldn't. That was the last request she would make and one I cherish. Her life was dedicated to children and she was Mom-mom to numerous children over her lifetime. She had a kitchen plaque that was perfect for her: "Come into the kitchen and chat with me, While I prepare a pot of tea." She was always ready for a friend.
So, the memories linger, getting better with age, and the life lessons have been taught. It is now up to me to carry on their legacy of grace, passion and faith in God, to those in my life path. It is a burden taken on with a heavy heart, yet one that was inevitable. It is time for me, the next generation, to take the life lessons given and pass them on the best way I know how. It is time to become one of the "Few Good Women."
In heaven, where Mom and Aunt Naomi are rejoicing and praising their Lord and Savior, there is no sorrow, only joy. I wish I could say that about here on earth. I miss both of them in many ways, but, because of their example, will once again, see them in heaven. I grieve for the loss of their influence, their enthusiasm, their encouragement, their wisdom. I rejoice for their new life, free of pain and grief, reunited with their loved ones. I realize that their lives and their accomplishments are not of this world but of eternity.
So, there is no flag remembrance, no news crew, no motorcade signaling the end of a life well lived. For now, I shall be content in the memories and know that the measure of my life will be celebrated where it counts--in heaven. I will remember Mom and Aunt Naomi every time I see one of their cross stitched works of art, teach a Bible study or eat cherry pie! I will cherish the lessons learned and endeavor to pass them to next generation. In this way, their lives on this earth will continue to be ones of influence, of purpose, of eternal value. I will cherish my time spent at the feet of these good women. I will strive to become a woman worthy of their legacy.