Sunday, 23 November 2008

The Beyond . . .



It seemeth such a little way to me
Across to that strange country, The Beyond;
And yet, not strange, for it has grown to be
The home of these of whom I am so fond.

And so for me there is no Death;
It is but a crossing, with abated breath, a little strip of sea,
To find one's loved ones waiting on the shore
More beautiful, more precious than before.
~Ella Wheeler Wilcox

When I awoke this morning, I didn't know what I was going to write here on this page. I took my shower and still no words came to me. Then I sat down to read my e-mails and one immediately caught my eye . . . one from my brother . . . the title . . . Aunt Thelma Passed Away at 8:30 Tonight . . . my eyes immediately filled with tears, and my heart began to ache.



You've never heard me say much about my Aunt Thelma. That is not because I didn't think of her often or because she was not special to me. She was my praying Aunt, and not very exciting, but I loved her dearly. My mother's older sister, she had been given an awfully hard row to hoe in life. She was a woman of great faith. She should have died a hundred times, and didn't. We thought of her as being a little bit like the *Ever-ready Bunny*, she just kept going and going.

When she was but a young girl of thirteen years, she was raped in her own bed, in her own home, with her parents just in the bedroom next door, by some men who my grandmother had rented a room out to during the local summer exhibition. I often thought of that through the years. How very frightening an experience that must have been for this young girl. I never spoke of it to her . . . I can only think that it coloured her young life in a way we cannot imagine.

She was a school teacher in her late teens, and then she married my Uncle Frank. My Uncle Frank was a sick man. He suffered from Schizophrenia. Her life with him was not a very good one. He was a cruel man, because of his disease and he treated her and their children very badly. We went to visit them one time on Prince Edward Island when I was about 11 years old. They lived in a rambling old farm house and they were very poor. I can remember my father being very nervous about Uncle Frank. You never knew what he was going to do next . . . those years with him, must have been hell on earth. She suffered with ill health off and on, and from his cruel ways, and she lost several children, some in child birth, and one, a baby girl named Cathy, when Cathy was several months old. She, herself, was given the last rights more than several times throughout those years.



When I was about 14, my mother, Aunt Freda and Uncle Harold went over to the Island to rescue her from my Uncle Frank, and to bring her and her five surviving children over to the mainland . . . Nova Scotia . . . to live. She would eventually divorce him, and she would bring those children up all by herself, as she never remarried, nor did she ever have a relationship with any man in that way for the rest of her life. She was a good mother. She worked from sun up to sun down, to do her very best for her children, to give them a good home and to provide for them all the things that they needed. It was not easy for her. She worked days cleaning other people's houses for them, and then she would come home and do it all again. Her house was spotless. It was a very hard and toilsome life, but I cannot recollect ever hearing a word of complaint from her about the things she had to do. She did her very best with what little she had.

Sometimes at Easter or Christmas, she would send up to us beautiful baking, sweet breads all covered in white icing and stogged full of fruit and decorated with cherries. I always looked forward to seeing them come through the door. At the time, I didn't give much thought to what it must have taken her to bake them for us, but now, as an adult, I know and understand that it must have taken a huge chunk out of her sparse larder, and was probably a great sacrifice for her to do so, but do it she did . . . out of love.



My Aunt Thelma often suffered in life with aches and pains, and in her later years she had Chronic Lung Disease, and suffered from ulcers on her legs. She was on Oxygen all the time, and eventually had to be put in the hospital with a circulatory problem in her legs, which did become affected with some gangarene. She was in the hospital for months and months. Last time we were home, Todd and I went to visit her there. She was in so much pain, but was so very happy to see us. It hurt us to see her that way, in pain and broken. She looked so small and frail in her bed. After a number of months, they did have to remove her leg. She was eventually moved to a old people's home, as there was no way that she could have returned to her own home in a wheel chair. I expect that she was glad to see the end of being in the hospital, but the move did mean that she was now quite far down the valley, which made it difficult for people to visit her. She seemed happy there, but I expect she was a bit lonely and missing the activity of days gone by. She often helped them out in the kitchen peeling potatoes and such for the evening meal. She had gone quite blind in these recent months, only being able to discern the light from the darkness . . . and now she is gone back home, safe to her father's arms.



For her there is no more darkness, only light. No weeping, no wailing, no tears . . . no more aches and pains . . . her body whole. She was our faithful praying Aunt here in this mortal veil of tears, and I know she will always be our praying Aunt in the beyond. As I sit here this morning my heart aches for all the things she should have had and deserved to have, and never did . . . it aches because I never had the chance to say goodbye and tell her that I loved her . . . it aches for my mother who is now the last surviving sister and daughter in that family . . . it aches for my cousins who are now mourning the loss of their beloved mother . . . it aches because she died alone . . .

I know that when she got to the other side, the Lord surely said to her . . . Welcome home my faithful servant . . . welcome home . . .

Always a stickler for cleanliness and order, she is probably putting things to right this morning, and getting rid of any cobwebs and dust that may be about, and doing it on two healthy legs, with two healthy lungs and a determined glint in her eye, and when she pauses for a moment or two, she thinks of us and says a little prayer . . .



We had a pretty quiet evening here last night. It's gotten very cold. Cold temperatures call for hearty comfort food. The kind of food that sticks to your innards and warms you up. I'm still getting used to my new camera, so my pictures are not the best, but let me assure you . . . this was delicious.



*Herbed Sausages with Polenta and Onion Gravy*
Serves 4

This is somewhat of an Italian take on that good old British dish, Sausage and Mash with Onion Gravy. If you've tried polenta before and were somewhat disappointed, try it again . . . the secret, as with most tasty things in life, is to use lots of butter and cheese, and to season it well.

12 good quality herby sausages

For the gravy:
2 TBS olive oil
2 red onions, thinly sliced
2 fresh springs of rosemary, broken into bits
2 tsp flour
2 TBS red currant or cranberry jelly
300ml red wine
300ml beef stock
(If you don't use alcohol in cooking, just use all stock)
25g butter

For the Polenta:
150g powdered polenta
50g butter
75g freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

Put 750ml of water in a medium saucepan. Place over high heat, cover and bring to a simmer. Pour the polenta into the pan of simmering water slowly, whisking constantly to prevent any lumps from forming. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 30 minutes, or according to the package instructions, giving it a stir periodically.

Meanwhile make the gravy. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and then add the onions and rosemary. Cook, stirring, until the onions begin to soften. Reduce the heat and cover. Cook slowly in their own juices for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring a few times. Stir in the flour and continue to cook for a few minutes longer, until the flour is no longer pale in colour. Add the jelly, wine and stock. Bring to the boil, then simmer away gently for 15 minutes while you grill the sausages.

Pre-heat the grill. Put the sausages onto a baking sheet lined with tinfoil. Grill for 15 minutes, turning them over half way through the time.

When all is ready, beat the butter and the Parmesan cheese into the polenta. Whisk the butter into the gravy and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon the hot polenta into heated bowls and top with a grilled sausages and pour the hot gravy over all. Delicious!



PS -- IT'S SNOWING!!!!! I'm so excited!

22 comments:

jenjen said...

What a wonderful post about your sweet aunt. What a brave and steadfast woman. Your sausages and polenta look wonderful and perfect for a cold November evening. I hope you and your Todd are having a great weekend!

Aileen said...

Dear Marie, such a moving Entry about your Aunt....so descriptive.
Love Ella Wheeler Wilcox,on reading this went to my copy of 'Poems of Passion' printed in 1907, bought for me by my Ex in 1975.An old and 'tired' copy, but one of my favourite Books.
We had Snow before I got up, now washed away with the Rain.(Allan wanted Snow...to go walking at 5.00am)Brrrr!
Aileen....X

HeatherInSF said...

Marie,

Your Aunt knows you love her. I am so sorry for your loss, and for your Aunt for having such a hard life. Again, your post is so inspirational.

Angie said...

My dear Marie, I am so sad for you today. I remember you mentioning Aunt Thelma in your Musings journal that you did before. This is a beautiful eulogy to the life of a well loved and respected lady who deserved much better from her earier life. The Glorious Kingdom won't know what's hit it today!

love always, Angie, xx

The Blonde Duck said...

I'm sorry for you loss. She sounds like a really nice lady. I can't believe it's snowing! It's 70 degrees here. Wah!

Joan said...

Dear Marie so sorry for your loss it is always so sad when we lose someone. We too have snow about 2 inches this morning great I laove it too wish I could go out sledging. Love Joan.

Tracy said...

Oh, Marie...I'm so very sorry you've lost your Aunt Thelma. Sending ((BIGGEST HUGS)) your way...What sweet memories of your Aunt you share here, what a lovely lady! I would have liked her. :o) Perhaps Aunt Thelma sent you the gift of snow today? :o) This recipe is so comforting...and you need some comfort food right now. Thinking of you, my dear friend...LOVE YOU SOO MUCH!! ((HUGS))

Bea said...

A beautiful tribute to your Aunt. I have an Aunt Thelma as well. I call her Aunt Del, and she lives in California, ... she recently suffered a stroke, but recovering well. We all need someone like our Aunts Thelma and Del. I modeled my auntiness after her to my own nieces and nephews, and the children of my friends and neighbors. I guess you could say she helped me see myself as a teacher as well. Have a wonderful Sunday, Marie.

Jan's Blog said...

As someone with a 'terminal' diagnosis I want to say that 'passing' is sometimes the greatest blessing of all. A time to be sad to be sure, but also a time for celebration, as all you've lost is restored to you. I was so moved by the story of your aunt, and the beautiful way in which you told it.

Lucy said...

Your Aunt Thelma sounds like a truly amazing woman and I hope you are OK. Your stew looks yummy! I have been in the suffolk countryside this weekend which is beautiful as a whole, but we were also lucky enough to have snow there which made it an absolutely gorgeous winter wonderland. The only downside of the snow is trudging through it up the hill to get the Sunday papers! X

Ursula said...

I am so sorry for your loss, Marie.

Aunt Thelma sounds like a wonderful woman. It's amazing what some of us must go through in our lives, and she certainly seems to epitomize that phrase, "that which does not kill us only makes us stronger." She certainly must have had an amazing impact on all around her, a pillar of strength to her children and family.

It's wonderful that she will live on in the memories of her family members, and those who share her with the rest of us-even for just a moment.

jancd said...

Dear Marie, what a happy day for your Aunt to arrive in heaven. Sad for you and happy for her. We must rejoice in her reward. My own mom is 90 and her mind is slowly leaving her. I know she will be happy when her time comes to go home. This is not our home. We are here to learn to live more Christ like. Jancd

Lisa K said...

Your aunt is definitely in a better place and is with her Heavenly Father and ancestors.

Hope you're having a great day!

Traci said...

So sorry to hear about your aunt passing. But you are right, she is with our heavenly Father.
Did you get much snow?

Grammy Staffy said...

I am sorry to hear about the loss of your aunt. I know that all of her family will miss such a sweet person but I am sure that she is much better off. How nice that she is now without pain and suffering. Next year you can do her temple work and she will be eternally grateful. I hope this knowledge brings you comfort in your time of grief.

I love you my dear friend. I will have you in my prayers.

Bunny said...

I'm so sorry for your loss Marie, but your right she has no more pain and she's happy in Heaven.

Jeanie said...

Dear Marie,

You gave a lovely tribute to your wondeful aunt. What a stoic she was and how giving of herself even though she was so ill all her life. She certainly has earned her place in heaven with God and his angels. God bless her and may perpetual light shine upon her in heaven.
She certainly will make everything ship shape by the time we all return to God.
Much love
Jeanie xxxx

Helena said...

I'm also saddened to hear about the brutal end to your aunt's innocence and her subsequent harsh life. Did Thelma's children appreciate her? Sounds as though she gave a lot of unconditional love, in spite of what she endured.

Starr said...

Marie,

I've been thinking about you & the loss of your beloved aunt for days. I am so sorry. I realize the words are trite, but she truly is in a better place.

Your tribute to her reminded me that those from whom life has extracted such pain often share love with the greatest depth. Perhaps your aunt and my father will be able to have a good chat sometime soon -- if they aren't too busy helping someone else.

Thank you for sharing your life with me.

hoLLy said...

sorry to hear of the loss of your sweet aunt thelma. she sounds like she was and is an extraordinary lady. here are lot of hugs from me!

Gillie said...

Wow~what a life she led. She is not at home and finally has peace!
xx

Geralyn said...

I just now read your tribute to Mother, Alice. It's a beautiful tribute. Your mother had mentioned it but all I found before was your mention of her the following day and then I got looking around tonight - first chance I've had in ages. I must say I'm still in a bit of shock, as I had no idea Mother had been raped when she was still home. That took me completely by surprise. She certainly was an inspiration of faith. Just one thing, though, she didn't have emphysema, she had chronic lung disease and lost her leg because of circulatory disease. I know it's trivial now but just so you know for yourself. I wish you and Todd all the best in the New Year. I'll be busy with work and fundraising for our Kenya Mission trip coming up the end of June. We have a fundraiser this New Year's Eve - a four-course dinner and a silent auction. I hope we do well. So long for now. Love, Geralyn