Time is unkind to the aging. The body begins to deteriorate, frequently urged on by any number of a multitude of debilitating illnesses and/or injuries and the mind begins to fail apace. And then there is the simple fact that family members and associates become fewer and fewer through the process of attrition. My Dad used to grumble that he didn’t know that many people any more because so many of his friends were had passed on.
And of course there are far too many instances where the consensus is that someone has left our company far too early.
My own family roster is rather thin these days. My wife’s, on the other hand, is widespread throughout Maine and somewhat on the rambunctious side. Their roots go back generations and can be traced to Nordic, Mediterranean, Gaelic and even native American origin.
Just recently, one of her aunts succumbed to COPD along with other related problems exacerbated, no doubt, by a lifetime of heavy smoking and a somewhat hard-living life style.
This lady, known to many (family and acquaintances alike) as “Gram” as well as “Aunt Mary”, was a longtime resident of the coastal ship building community of Bath. Her husband has been a municipal employee for decades and is well known to many as a cheerful, hard-working man with a reputation for dependability.
Aunt Mary, although a productive member of the workforce for many years, was regarded as a lode-stone of a different cast. She proved to be an anchor for many people, not just her relatives, but neighbors and friends young and old, who sometimes lost their hold on their bootstraps and needed a not-so-gentle reminder of the more helpful path to travel.
There were well over two hundred people crowded into the local American Legion hall to honor “Gram”, their sister, aunt and friend. More than a couple of hulking young men (and older ones as well) walked up to the podium to pay their respects and share a story of how she had accomplished what the local authorities had been unable to do – provide some stability, guidance and hope for young people who were in danger of completely losing their way.
“Gram”, it was repeatedly said, either loved you or didn’t …… and was not bashful in letting you know either way, sometimes in a colorful dialog that elicited admiration from any sailor within earshot. A very, very big heart.
For me, this event was a reaffirmation of what Maine – and much of our country – is still about: family, friends, community. No dignitaries were present to say goodbye to this lady and none were needed or desired. The important people in her life were there in droves to say farewell …….. and Thank You.