Dignity and Grace

Saturday, January 07, 2012 Road Junkies 0 Comments

MOBILE, Alabama— Today we attended the memorial service honoring my great Aunt Helen who died on Christmas Day at age 90.  A gracious lady who followed a lifelong pursuit of learning, Aunt Helen was the essence of grace and dignity and served as an inspiring role model for all who knew her.

Postponing her education to raise a family, Aunt Helen attended college when her nest was empty and obtained a degree in English, enabling her to become a teacher of the subject she loved passionately.  A voracious reader, she explored all types of literature, though Faulkner and Shakespeare were her favorites.  She even specified some passages for her grandchildren to read at her memorial service.

An innovative instructor, Aunt Helen was also a masterful grammarian and an expert source of advice for those who struggled with dangling participles and split infinitives, even if you didn't know to ask for a correction.  As much as she enjoyed teaching, she eventually obtained the training and certification to become a high school counselor and later an administrator, giving her a wider influence on the lives of the students she wanted to help.  After retirement, she continued to teach in her role as a volunteer tutor for adult learners of English, an activity she continued into her 80s.  And she spent countless hours investigating and recording the family history when she developed an interest in genealogy. 

Aunt Helen had great pride in her two children and four grandchildren and delighted in their every accomplishment.  Their interests and her insatiable curiosity motivated her to keep up with technological developments.  An early adopter of computer technology, she spent her last years reading dozens and dozens of books on her beloved Kindle.

At our family reunions, Aunt Helen could always be relied upon to bring her special version of banana pudding, always a favorite of adults and kids alike.  Even when we were children— and there were 11 of us cousins— we could also count on Aunt Helen to remember each of us and to converse with us individually and take a special interest in what we had been doing and what we thought.

Our family was enriched the day Uncle George decided to bring this wonderful lady into our fold.  We will miss her kind heart and indomitable spirit, her insightful advice and inspiring example, and, of course, her delicious banana pudding.