It was six weeks ago on July 13 that my aunt passed away, and last weekend that I went to her memorial service.
At the reception afterwards in the memorial hall, there was a small array of cheese spreads, crackers, and fruits and vegetables. There was also apple cake, with the cake prepared by the caterer using my aunt’s recipe.
I wasn’t sure if I’d had my aunt’s apple cake before (I thought I had), but in any case it tasted good that day. On the table next to the cake was also the recipe, printed simply on
5″ x 8″ slips of orange paper, there for all to take. The slips also noted the recipe’s origins: it had come from a customer of the family’s old apple orchard, collected by my grandmother and modified by my aunt.
I didn’t take any pictures that day, but I took some a few days later when I decided to try making the recipe myself. The only variations I made were to use Ginger Gold apples (the folks at the farmers’ market said I could get Jonathans starting in a maybe 3-4 weeks) and to skip the topping. The cake turned out good, but it was also easy to tell that it wasn’t quite the same as the original, which had more of a definite, ‘Okay, even though I’ve already had three or four pieces, I think I’ll have just one more,’ quality to it.
My aunt was many things, a baker, scholar, wife, friend, sister, aunt, gardener, leader, quilter, and crafts-person. But’s that’s saying too much, and too little.
The memorial service, following my aunt’s request, consisted of a musical selection of folk and traditional songs that she liked and that meant something to her, played live by friends, with a minimum of talking about her in between the songs. She had requested that the collective comments last no more than five minutes altogether. There were eight songs, eleven performers, and a welcome, and you could feel the performer-friends wanting to say more, even as they kept true to the program.
There was a lot that made my aunt’s life full, and we all wish it would have continued to be full for a little longer, beyond when the progression of cancer, back again, finally said it was time.
I’ve gone back and forth on what to say about myself and how I feel, including whether to say anything at all since it’s not really about me. What I’ll just say is that I have a feeling that I imagine others may have felt at similar times in their lives: a wish or regret not necessarily to have said more, but to have asked more, and to have learned more about her and the perspective, knowledge, and life and family history she knew and could share.
The morning after the memorial, I walked through my aunt and uncle’s garden and took pictures of the flowers. It was mostly my aunt who would do the flowers, and mostly my uncle who would do the vegetables.
Here’s how the flowers looked that day, a day after my aunt would have been 79. There was and still is a lot of color.