I have been thinking about turtles a lot lately because my Aunt Mariam loved turtles. Last week, my cousin sent me a box with two turtles from my Aunt Mariam, one for me and one for Alex. Aunt Mariam was actually my great aunt, my Grandma's sister. She was born in 1919, and would have turned 90 this year. Two weeks ago, Alex and I flew home for her funeral.
When I was little, we lived out in the country just a few miles down from Aunt Mariam’s house. Their farm was named Seven Oaks Farm, and I loved playing there. The big Oak tree in the front yard always had a swing of some sort to play on, where I spent wasted countless hours of my life spinning and swirling. In the back, there was a garage and the cob house. To the right was a big red barn and to the left was a black raspberry patch. Aunt Mariam had about 100 cats in the cob house. Ironically, I am sure she watched Bob Barker everyday on the Price is Right but never had a single cat spayed or neutered. Even though the cats were too afraid to let you pet them, I spent hours upon hours trying to catch one.
I loved picking black raspberries with Aunt Mariam. If you have never had them, you are missing out. They make the best jelly, but they have lots of thorns. I remember wearing long sleeves and long pants in the heat of summer so we wouldn’t get scratched. Aunt Mariam would also tell me about the big black snakes that lived under her porch, but thankfully, I never saw one. I also loved helping her with her laundry. Finally, sometime in the late 80s, Aunt Mariam got a new laundry machine – a new wringer model to replace the old one she had.
For snacks, Aunt Mariam would have Fig Newtons, or on special occasions, she would make us ice cream cones. My cousin Josh and I would always have her make ours with a curl on top, just like Dairy Queen. For Halloween, she would always have those little pumpkin candies.
Directly behind their farm was the grennel hole in the Kaskaskia River. My dad and his sisters spent many summer days swimming in the grennel hole when they were young, and we spent many nights fishing on that river bank.
She and Uncle Owen lived just a few miles away from Camp Kelso, a small, ancient family camp that probably defined the word “rustic”. I would go to church with Aunt Mariam across the street, and go to Bible school there in the summer. The church was filled with aunts and uncles, cousins and my grandparents. I have so many fond memories of seeing them all together. One of my favorite parts of camp was getting a snack at the confession stand after each night’s service. I didn’t realize it was actually called a concession stand until I was a teenager.
All of these things were comforting to me, largely because Aunt Mariam was a sweet, gentle, caring person. I know the Bible says we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but I cannot imagine Aunt Mariam ever sinning. She never complained, never gossiped, and strangely enough, we were never in trouble at her house. She was just like 1 Corinthians 13:4-5; she was always patient and always kind. She was never rude or self-seeking or easily angered. She was my living example of Jesus.
I left Aunt Mariam’s funeral, determined to be exactly like her. Never again would I yell at my child, I vowed. I would never complain or raise my voice to another living soul, and I did great for about 20 hours. I have finally decided that if God wanted me to be exactly like Aunt Mariam, I would have been Aunt Mariam. I am different from her because that is the way he made me. I would still like to be more patient and more loving. I can always strive to do more, but I cannot measure myself against her. I was especially pleased to see that my turtle from Aunt Mariam was a turtle of patience. I do hope to be persistent like a turtle and slowly every day work to being a more patient mom and wife.
My Grandma passed away a few months before we got to meet Alex, which caused me great sadness. I am so thankful and blessed that Aunt Mariam got to meet him. Here is a photo of us at out welcome home party. Aunt Mariam would keep the pictures of Alex in a photo album with all of her grandkids right next to her. I am so lucky that God let me be in her family.
Goodbye Aunt Mariam. To say you will be missed is an understatement.