Monday, January 09, 2006

Goodnight, Dear Saint

In memory of Alvine Adams Clausen, October 16, 1915 - January 9, 2006. She is pictured here with her granddaughter, my wife, Sami Baker.

My wife was born in Arlington, Virginia, to a single mother working many temp jobs trying to provide for her new, unexpected bundle of joy. When she was about three years old she moved from that suburb of our nation's capital to live with her grandmother in a small farm house in Goshen, Kentucky. The house she was raised in did not have central air or heat. It was instead heated by two giant stoves. She tells stories of her grandmother warming blankets on these stoves before she went to bed. It was a great treat for her to be "snuggled" (as she says) in those freshly warmed blankets.

My wife also tells stories of this spry, saintly woman racing between buildings on the family farm with her young granddaughter. I like to picture Alvine chasing Sami, perhaps with a stick in her hand, pressing her to move faster and to do better.

Because she was raised by her grandmother (along with her mother, who moved back home to join her daughter about a year after they were separated) my wife is in many ways the last of a dying generation. Not only did she grow up without central heat, but she used to go out into the yard with her grandmother to hang the wash on a clothesline to dry. And, even though plumbing had been added to the house, her grandmother used to put a "pot" (like a bedpan) under each bed in case you had to go to the bathroom. [note: because of this I finally know what is meant when you say that someone "doesn't have a pot to piss in"]

Alvine truly was a saintly woman. She was the kindest, gentlest soul that I have ever met. But every life must come to an end, and just before 5 o' clock this afternoon she breathed her last, and peacefully passed away.

I would love to list my favorite memories of her here. I would love to write something profound on the significance of her life. I would love to honor her. But right now grief and exhaustion have robbed me of my words. I met her well past her prime, but I could still catch an occasional glimpse of the saintly woman who was such a legend in her family, her church and her community.

I ate many, many meals at her table. In fact, while my wife and I were dating I must have gained twenty pounds, mostly due to her country cooking. I never got to sleep in the house with the stoves, as it was replaced by the "new" house in 1986. I never got to pee (she wouldn't approve of my vulgar use of the word "piss") in any pots, and I never got to hang laundry. But I was blessed with the chance to know the woman who - along with her daughter - raised my wife to be the wonderful woman she is today.

When I look at my wife I see Alvine's legacy to me. I loved her, and she loved me. Of course, the great thing about her is that she loved everybody. But she loved each of us uniquely. You couldn't help but feel special and loved when you were around her.

My words cannot convey what a blessing she was. She was our light, reflecting the light and love of God. She lived a good life, and died a brave death. She will be missed.

Goodnight, dear saint.
Sleep tight, dear saint.

1 comment:

Tom said...

Sorry for your loss. I know that I can't say anything meaningful that could ease any pain, but I know that she will be missed.