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In our own backyard... For everything, there is a season

Sometimes it seems as though we move through life in terms of seasons. There is a season of birth, a season of growth, a season for coming of age and a season of change. Lately, I have been moving through a season of loss.

Sometimes it seems as though we move through life in terms of seasons. There is a season of birth, a season of growth, a season for coming of age and a season of change. Lately, I have been moving through a season of loss.

It began just before Christmas, when I lost my treasured cat, Marmalade, after 15 years of being best friends and companions.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I lost my Aunt Mary, my mom's last remaining sibling - and a woman who embodied the spirit and strength I have come to admire so much in my own mother.

And this past Monday, we received that phone call that none of us ever wants to receive - bearing the devastating news my mother-in-law, Dorothy, had passed away.

It seemed more than we could possibly endure, and yet, there was nothing that could stem the tide of time....

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My Aunt Mary was one of those rare women who, though born nearly a century ago and raised during a dramatically different generation in time, was one of the strongest and most savvy women I've ever known. She had a zest for life, a sense of humor and a strength of character that would have been the envy of many. She could bake a "killer" carrot cake and replace a bad shingle on the roof of her house from atop a tall ladder well into her 80s.

Though a series of health issues caused her to end up in a nursing home for her final years, she nonetheless retained a spark of the enthusiasm and sense of humor that had kept her going for so long.

The week before Mary died at the age of 98, I went to call on her, knowing her time on earth was growing short. The morning I was there, I wasn't certain if she was awake or asleep. I smoothed the skin of her frail arm as I said to her, "Hi, Mary - it's Wendy. I just wanted you to know Ken and I went to see Mom last weekend, and she said to send you her love."

Her eyes remained half closed and her breathing labored, so I assumed she was unaware. Determinedly, I forged ahead.

"While we were at Mom's house, she baked us a cherry pie."

At that point I detected the slightest flickering of her eyelids, and then, wondrously, one corner of her mouth raised in a one-sided grin. I knew then that she knew I was there and that those few precious moments had gotten through to her subconscious in a way that only God can understand.

Two days later, my Aunt Mary was gone.

And at the beginning of this week, we received the shattering news from Ken's brother that he had gone to check on their mom that morning after she failed to answer the phone and discovered her lying peacefully on her bed with her cat, Princess, curled up at her side. Dorothy had passed away at some point during the night.

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Much like my Aunt Mary, Dorothy had always been an independent, spunky woman whose mind was sharp and involved in the workings of the world around her, though her legs had failed her some years before.

Up until the end, she surfed the Internet and downloaded photos of her great-grandchildren, she was busily creating hand-made quilts for each of her grandchildren, and just the week before she died she ventured out on her electric "scooter" all on her own to go shopping at a Target store some four or five blocks from the senior apartment building where she lived.

When we talked with her by phone last Saturday, she was full of enthusiasm over our recent trip up the North Shore and wanted to know about everything we'd done and seen.....

Monday night following Dorothy's death, as we journeyed back home from the Twin Cities after saying our final goodbyes to her, I was tempted to believe some part of life would never be quite the same again.

But even as our hearts were breaking, there came a small meow from a carrier in the back seat of our car. For there, preparing to start out her own life anew, was Princess.

Pine Journal columnist Wendy Johnson can be contacted at: wjohnson@pinejournal.com .

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