Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Aunt Elsie

My last aunt died last week. On my mother's side I had: Aunts--Georgie, Juanette, Elsie and Elsie Mae (two Elsie's, can you beat that!) Uncles--Lee, Harvey, Jim and Graham. And two uncles--Leon and Edward, who died before I was born.

On my father's side, I had Uncle Russell and Aunt Gladys, Uncle Sid and Aunt Callie (who was also the daughter of my maternal grandmother's brother--making her my second cousin as well as aunt--hey, this was Appalachia, ok? Sid and Callie's children, Greg and Sarita, called me their 'double first cousin', though that wasn't accurate exactly) Uncle Del and Aunt  Ola, Uncle Les and Aunt Louise.

18 aunts and uncles--and Elise, my mother's younger sister was the last to die. My cousin Mejol and I talked about how we no have no generational buffer--we are next in line for 'that good night'....

Elsie was 90 just a few months before her death. I didn't go to her party at my cousin Jan's house, though 8 of my living first cousins did. Four are dead, so only 3 of the living ones weren't there. I sent a present--a cross I wore on years of Sundays and Aunt Elsie wrote to tell me she valued that gift more than any. And now she's dead.

She had a Ph.d in Theology from a Nazarene seminary and taught seminarians and was eventually head of the branch seminary in South Charleston, West Virginia. She also taught public school for 35 years or more.

She was the first member of my mother's family to go to college. But my Aunt Georgie (Mejol's mother) and my mother eventually got Master's degrees in Education and taught school for decades. All of them were from a dirt-poor Jones family that valued education. Bless them all.

So, I drove to Baltimore last Thursday and spent the night with Mejol and the two of us drove to Charleston--6 hours--the next day. We went to the wake at the Charleston Nazarene church (open coffin,which I could have done without) and the funeral the next day.

Nazarene's talk about their 'Wesleyan' heritage. The Methodist broke from the Anglican church (though both Wesley brothers were buried as Anglicans) because Anglicans weren't strict enough. Then the Wesleyan Church broke from the Methodists because they weren't strict enough. Then the Nazarene Church broke from the Wesleyan Church because they weren't strict enough. I wanted to tell the minister at the funeral that I was a priest in his 'home church' but didn't.

The funeral (closed coffin, thank God) was actually called, in the bulletin, "A Celebration of the Life of Elsie Jones Ours". I appreciated that.

And the only thing in the service that offended me--and I expected to be much more offended--was that the preacher recounted several pastoral conversations he had with Aunt Elsie in here last days. In the Episcopal Church, such conversations are sacrosanct--'seal of the confessional' private. Not to be replayed ever, not ever. And the thing that was worst about him doing that was that it was obvious he  told the stories to show what a good pastor he was.

My Aunt Elsie was, besides my maternal grandmother--Lina Manona Sadler Jones--the most devout and godly woman I've ever known. Nothing that man could have said to her would have improved her godliness. That offended me greatly.

I saw five first cousins I haven't seen for at least a decade or more: John Michael, Richard and Jan (all my Uncle Graham Jones and Elsie Mae Taylor Jones' children) and Joel and Gayle (children of Juanette Jones and Lee Pugh). They all looked exactly how I imagined they would look all these years later. Reason enough to drive 10 hours back and forth.

More about all this and other things later. Be well and stay well....

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.