On Monday, two older women I know died. One was a feisty, fun woman from our church named Helen. The other was my Aunt Flo, the last of her generation of our family.
On Friday I will attend Helen’s funeral here in Pennsylvania. Then I will drive to the Philadelphia airport to fly to New Hampshire so I can attend Flo’s funeral in Maine on Saturday.
I want to be there to honor both women, because they lived lives that blessed mine. They embody exactly what I would wish someone would say about my life someday.
Here is what Flo taught me all my life by her life and what, in these last few years, has been reinforced through Helen’s life:
1. Live Well
Don’t expend your energy looking for a life that doesn’t exist. Invest in the one you’ve got. Look for ways to bring joy to the lives around you, to lighten the loads of others. Find contentment in each day and yet make it even more beautiful for every person you encounter. Flo was a pastor’s wife who was her own person in an era of cookie-cutter pastors’ wives, and yet was beloved by everyone in her congregation. Helen was the mother of seven equally feisty children (at least if their grown-up personas are any indication) and yet kept her sense of humor, which leads to my next point.
2. Laugh Often
I first got to know Helen as more than simply a woman who attended our church at a bingo night. Les and I sat with Helen and some of her family. She and Les had the world’s worst cards. She joked, she told us stories, I’m pretty sure she tried to cheat. We laughed at snarky comments tossed out throughout the night. And a friendship was born. Helen was fun, and we looked forward to being with her.
Flo was totally the fun aunt. She taught us crazy songs, like “Goin’ on a Bear Hunt,” that we sang on car trips. She gathered the family for food and fun and card games, at which I think she also cheated on occasion. (Is that a commonality of uncommon women?) Laughing until our stomachs hurt was the hallmark of time with Flo.
3. Love Much
Flo loved every person she met. She met needs, she “adopted” each as a member of her family. She encouraged and helped us dream. She loved her husband, her daughters, her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren to distraction. “Love, love,” was a favorite phrase.
Helen’s family members are a witness to her love. Her Sunday night dinners for the clan, her cheering on their bowling (no matter how bad) and their Sunday church row, all spoke to how greatly she loved and was loved. Helen also gathered in others who needed that extra care.
Hanging in our kitchen is a sign given to us years ago. It too says these three things:
Live Well. Laugh Often. Love Much.
I hope those will be hallmarks of my life. It could be my tribute to Helen and Flo.
Will those three things be your legacy as well?