As I was talking with my many cousins at the funeral home, I could have missed a very important part of my Aunt Aileen Anderson's legacy to her kids and her nieces and nephews. It was a celebration of the life she left and the one she just entered.
During her 91 years of life and her more than 70 years of marriage she had many curve balls thrown at her. Like her other five sisters, including my mother, she faced what would have been impenetrable obstacles and surmounted them. Life for her got real hard at times.
The she and her husband Ron entered their nineties. Their bodies got frail and their health became a challenge. Ron died and Aunt Aileen had a case of diabetes which left her without one leg.
She knew she was living in the bonus period of her life.
She never showed any fear about death. But she wasn't going to volunteer before her time was up. She was the resident leader of her retirement community and she was even interviewed on a local television station. Aunt Aileen was adamant about being able to vote. She didn't stop living and was part of life.
Then her day came. Holding her daughter Colleen's hand she passed from this life to the next.
She never had any doubt about where her next home would be. It would be in heaven with her brothers and sisters and her husband and her son.
She left us the lesson of how to die. She left with no regret and only looked forward. Thank-you for that example.
These are me and my cousins who were at Aunt Aileen's funeral in Bay City today.
I was 13-years-old when it first happened to me. I was getting a haircut at my uncle's house and, as we usually did we talked politics and about how the pope would move into the White House if John F. Kennedy was elected.
This is all true. It was a time when there was serious suspicion between Protestants and Roman Catholics. Many Protestant parents would question the wisdom of their dating age kids getting involved with a Catholic. And for many of them the symbol of all this was the pope.
In many Lutheran circles, there were plenty of publications about room being made in the White House for the head of the Catholic church. It was assumed that this country would be run from the Vatican City.
This all happened before the web and it's hundreds of "news" sites. Back then, it was all newspapers and radio news and a little television news.
Now it's fake news sites pretending to be real news. Readers are taking them for truth. What about the recent disclosures that President-elect Trumps National Security Adviser found to be the purveyors of the falsehoods.
What have I learned to help?
One of my professors at the MSU School of Journalism, Bud Meyer, taught us: Never Assume Anything.
It was pounded into our heads. Citizens need need now more than ever. The future of our country depends having confidence in reading what is being thrown out as news.
Did you ever buy gas at a Gulf oil station? These matches bring back memories from my boyhood in Bay City, Michigan, where I grew up and where the Gulf station was a regular stop. Part of our loyalty to Gulf could be because of my Uncle Wes Moll who owned one at Cass and Lincoln streets in my hometown.
Those were the days when every business advertised through book matches that it had readily available at its cash register for those who smoked. Cigarette smokers were common. They were everywhere. So smokers needed matches.
Is Gulf Oil still around or did it merge and go out of business?
Her legacy carries to my two kids. Here my son Justin talks with Aunt Aileen about the chicken he is roasting for her and Ron. She encouraged his love of cooking and eating.
I was trying to think about how my Aunt Aileen Anderson influenced my life. She was one of twelve kids in my mother's family who grew-up on a sugar beet farm in Michigan's Thumb and she died Wednesday at age 91 in a senior care community in West Virginia where she lived to be near her daughter Colleen.
Aileen was always part of my life. My mother was close to her younger sister. They talked and visited each other often. When I was a very young boy and my mother was sick in the hospital I stayed at her house where she and her husband Ron raised three children. They were married 71 years.
How did she influence me? The first thing that comes to mind is her gift of hospitality. My most clear memories of her involve food, sitting around a table at her house and eating a delicious meal and always feeling welcomed. She always had a smile and loved talking about how she cooked each course to make it as healthy as possible.
I was always struck by the energy with which she lived life. She was fully engaged with her immediate family and with her siblings and their families. Right beside her always was her husband Ron. They were a team that shared each other's life with meaningful mutual conversation and with support for each other when it was needed. They were there for each other.
When my mom and I were in a serious car accident in the late 1950s, Aileen was right there to make sure my seriously injured mother was watched over and taken care of and that I had a place to stay before my mom got out of the hospital.
I remember when their son Kent had a tragic death, Ron and Aileen were each other's constant support.
One more thing comes to mind. She told everybody about her faith in Jesus Christ and why it was important to her. It was the most important thing in her life, followed by her husband and her kids. Some may have winced when they heard it. She'd smile and remind you that you need to hear and believe and depend on it. That faith was the source of strength and hope that she relied on everyday of her life.
Why do I mention this?
I was born and raised by a single-mom who was a saint. Aileen and Ron who died last year gave me a template for everyday living and loving that has stayed with me. I'm part of their legacy.
My daughter Krista with my Aunt Aileen holding my grandson Jacob.
Are you an evangelical Christian? Watch these evangelical Christian pastors have to say about Donald J. Trump's victory. Something's wrong in their response. Right? What would Jesus say and do? I don't get it.