My Great Aunt Katie passed away early this morning, just a few days shy of being “104 and ½.” It is hard to be too terribly sad, knowing that she had a full and adventurous life, marked by love of God, of family and dear friends. She loved life in a quiet “day at a time” way, and she shared her passion for music as a patient teacher and capable performer.
In the past 15 years, I was able to visit Katie several times while traveling on business. One week, I was attending a conference on alternative medicine, held in of all places the Home Moravian Church, which my mother’s side of the family (“the Pfohls”) helped to found and build. At that time, Katie, lived in Below House nestled in the heart of historic Old Salem. We were to meet for lunch on the conference break. Earlier that morning, as one of the lecturers addressed us, out of the corner of my eye I noticed a lot of colorful movement in the vestibule. I didn’t have to look closely to know who it was: my Aunt Katie, dressed in hat and colorful scarves, with a ruffled parasol and hat punctuating her “look.” She was early for our outing, so I fetched her and she sat with me in the conference for a short while before we cut out for lunch and a visit.
Katie used to walk down to the dining hall at Salem College each day for a meal, a practice that no doubt contributed to her longevity. The best part of joining her there was seeing how much the girls loved her, calling her by name. Katie knew them all and would ask each about her family and her schoolwork.
On one of those trips, Katie, who never married, asked me about my ex-husband.
“How long were you married to that fella?”
I, still carrying some regret and shame over a failed marriage, replied: “Five years.”
“Oh, my,” said Katie. “I don’t think I could ever do that for so long.”
Katie loved life and she was loving and caring to whomever was in her midst. Her life was a true “ministry of presence.” She shared her gifts freely and reveled in affectionate companionship and community wherever she found herself.
In the wee hours of this morning, the heavenly choir received a beautiful boost. As we make our way toward the All Saint’s celebration, I will be lighting a candle for dear Katie.