In memory of Jeanette Nash Clevenger

June 1, 1918 – March 1,2012

Yesterday I attended my Aunt Jeanette’s funeral. Slowly and sadly, over several weeks, we had all confronted the reality that we would lose her and the knowledge that hope and love could not save us from this loss.

The day was a beautiful honoring of her life by the many, many people that knew and loved her. The church in Grasonville was one I had been in many times as a child. The space was rich with shared memories, a video memorial created by her grandson, family photographs and stories. As I greeted and hugged so many, I was suddenly awash in memories of my childhood when my Aunt Jeanette was like a lovely fairy princess and the world was good and clean and perfect and made sense.

Perhaps it is this way for many children who have happy childhoods. When I was young, the world of Kent Island and the people I loved were wholly perfect to me, and I did not anticipate that that world would ever change. Actually, from some point of early consciousness to about age 13, it did seem that little did change and in some unrealistic way, I think I expected to defy time, and that the world and people I knew would go on as they were, year after year. I would not lose them; I would not lose a place that I loved. My grandmother would always be sitting on her porch.

But life betrays such innocent expectations and moves on in ways we cannot manage nor predict. I will forever miss my Aunt Jeanette, but I treasure the love and memories that cannot be taken away. If there is a lesson, it is one that I have learned and relearned over time: that life is short and that we are immensely foolish to not take every opportunity to fill it with love, joy, and appreciation. This is not easy. We humans seem often to be pulled in the opposite direction. Daily circumstances wear us down. We get too busy, immersed in details. Little things, things we imagine are important, get in our way. Sometimes we say things that are hurtful, even to people we treasure. Too often we prefer to be right instead of joyful.

So in the loss of my dear Aunt, I chose a celebration – both of her and all the others I have loved who have gone, and most importantly, of all the dear people still left to me on this earth. And that is the way my Aunt Jeanette would want it.

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