Friday, February 13, 2009


With all the beautiful dogs appearing at the 133rd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Monday and Tuesday, it was easy for me to anticipate my blogging about dogs this week. However, in the midst of my remembering the dogs I've known, I learned that my favorite aunt, my mother's older sister, passed away this past Sunday night.

Our relationship wasn't typical, being stunted by the thousands of miles that usually separated us and by the sometimes intense feelings of rivalry expressed by my mother that I came to believe were the result of their father asking Mom, why couldn't she be more like Evangeline? Eventually, Mom couldn't overcome her personal demons that persuaded her to refuse all contact with her sister despite Evangeline's many attempts to reconcile.

Fortunately, before Mom got to her last straw, Auntie and I already had a relationship that Mom didn't later discourage. Mom was smart and knew that whatever resentment she held was not to be borne by me as well. Because of this, Auntie has the honor of being the pivot point for three key aspects of my life: photography, travel, and my relationship with the Lord.

Her influence on my photography was possibly inadvertent. Before her husband was transferred from wherever he was stationed in Germany, Auntie sent a Konica 35mm rangefinder camera to Mom who, after using it for a while, decided it was too complicated for her and passed it along to me. Being an avid shutterbug since before I received my first camera at age 12, receiving a 35mm camera when I was 16 was a happy event for me. I wore out the camera over the next five years and the practice proved invaluable. When I was 21, I was asked to do the publicity shots for a stage play that were published in the local newspaper.

Auntie's influence on my traveling came from a brief conversation at the Honolulu International Airport's baggage claim area. Instructed by Mom to help Evan with her luggage, I was surprised when she pulled a small suitcase from the carousel and began to walk toward the exit with it.

"What about your other suitcase?" I asked.

"I don't have another suitcase. This is it," Auntie replied.

My jaw dropped. Mom always had Dad call the airline to ask the limits for the free luggage allowance so she could pack to the max, taking advantage of Dad's taking only one suitcase for himself to add to her travel wardrobe and mine. From Mom's example, I thought women were supposed to have a four-piece matched set of luggage because they needed it for all the toiletries and clothing they had to take.

"Only one suitcase?" I was amazed. Evan didn't even have a carry-on bag, only her purse.

"I travel with other women from the office and need to be able to carry my own luggage," she said. "I have two pairs of slacks, four blouses, and a couple of changes of underwear. That's all I need."

That eye-opener enabled me to spend five days on Puerto Rico and St. Croix with only my purse, camera, and carry-on bag, and two weeks in Hawai`i with a garment bag instead of the carry-on. For a two-week road trip to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin, Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota, the Royal Canadian Mint in Winnipeg, Manitoba; the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas and seeing a few friends along the way, I took my camera, laptop, and carry-on bag.

Aunt Evan also helped me learn that, although you can't always trust people, you can always trust God, by serving as His oracle during one visit we enjoyed after she retired and went to live with her son on the Big Island of Hawai`i. She said that she doesn't get the things that people ask her to bring back for them from her trips. I knew I was hearing significant advice although I was choosing not to heed it. After all, it was a good friend from college who had asked me to bring back a T-shirt and we had continued the relationship for over ten years. I trusted my friend to repay me.

When I returned home, I called the now-former-friend who said she had changed her mind. She refused to pay me for the T-shirt as she had promised, telling me to send it back to Honolulu to get my money back. (I kept it for a while, so I wouldn't forget the valuable lesson. And, although that single incident didn't break up our friendship at that time, it was a definite cooler, a wake-up call to the type of person she is.)

Auntie was sociable, vivacious, and petite like a little bird with sparkling eyes. Being with her wasn't always sunshine and roses, however. There were times we disagreed, our voices rising as the current argument heated. As we approached impasse, she had the wisdom to pause and ask, "But, we agree that Jesus Christ is Lord?" I'd say, "Yes," and we'd laugh, the tension broken and melted away.

I could write more, how her name came from the poem, "Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow or how she was a street preacher when she was only ten. I recall that she had cars that were "different." Hers were the first Volkswagen Beetle and Opel in which I ever rode.

I'll miss her. I'm not in mourning or sad because there are no unresolved issues between us. The last words we said to one another were, "I love you." I don't need to say, "Good-bye," to her because I know in my heart, in my gut, in the very core of my being, that I'll see her again some day.

In the meantime, I hope her spirit has a nice nap. After 96 years on this earth, I expect she probably needs the rest.

1 Thessalonians 4:
13. But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
14. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
15. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
16. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

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