Friday, January 18, 2013

Natalie Zelinski Swintek (UPDATED)

( I have just returned from Aunt Natalie's funeral and am going to update this entry, as I knew I would be doing)I know I will be adding info to this entry but right now, as I prepare to head to Indiana, I need to get the basics down (It seemed odd to miss the family viewing for Natalie but we did not make it home from Indiana in time...sadly.  Today I noticed that Uncle Ken had arrived from California but it was only as they were exiting the church.  He was weeping at the loss of his last sister and I felt for him.  But I will be blogging about Cody and Sam's big day later).

My cousin Lisa just called to tell me her mom, my Aunt Natalie has died.  Natalie has had Alzheimers for a few years and because of the love and caring children, was able to stay in her home til the end.  Kathy lived with her.  David came over when Kathy went to work.  Locks were strengthened, knives were hid, knobs on the stove/oven were removed.

I don't have all the details but it turns out that Natalie had a heart attack but because of the disease was not able to communicate this fact. There were other things but I have forgotten what exactly I was told.  I know Natalie was ill and while in the hospital and through a blood test them were able to learn of the heart attack. (I continue to be amazed at what I have learned about this sad disease from friends who have had first hand experience with it.  Obviously these are things I need to remember)

Natalie was my birth father's half sister, leaving only Uncle Kenny, his half brother, as last of that generation.  My heart hurts for my cousins who will now face quite a few lonely days without the need to care for their mom.  But for Aunt Natalie, her time of wandering in such a confused world has passed.

As I watched Kathy and Lisa and David up in the front, I realized how very long and lonely these days will be and again, am so amazed at how much they were able to do for their mom.  Certainly the priest's message (which was really great) was meant for them.

The funeral today was held at St. Casimir's Catholic Church.  I mentioned it previously in an entry when Aunt Ann died.  Here's a link with a video...sadly Slideshow is no more so there went my pix...drats!  And another.  So you might remember that the local Bishop closed its doors and then the Vatican allowed them to be reopened.  I am glad that Aunt Natalie was able to be buried from here since I so remember her wearing a St. Casimir pin that opposed its closing initially.  I am sure she was one of the valiant ones who fought to get it reopened.  It would be just for her to leave this world from this amazing church.

This is what met my eyes as I walked in with cousin Karen Uridell, behind the casket.
As you can see, the church was still decorated for Christmas.  Karen motioned toward the pink statue and told me her daughter, Jane, found that from somewhere.  It was lovely. The priest gave quite a lovely message, not a eulogy but it could have been.  I grabbed for whatever I had to take notes when I realized I was learning and hearing some important things.  Naturally I ended up with Jimmy John's card and a receipt.

As the casket entered the church aisle, the priest sprinkled holy water on it and he told us that that water was a reminder that 82 years ago, probably the first place Natalie went was to this church to be baptised.  She was not taken to a mall to look for party things for the baptismal, because there were no malls back then, but two, because that's where her parents would have taken her.  To start her life off right.

Next the casket was covered with a lovely, pure white cloth. Not sure shroud would be correct but it's close.  This white cloth would be reminiscent of the second sacrament (or was it the third?), representing the newness of life, cleanliness and now, at death, it represents much the same, the putting on of a new ife.  This life has not ended, but has changed.  Her life and her deeds as well as the promises made during Natalie's various sacraments were not forsaken but they were fulfilled in her life and in her death.

A Pascal Candle was lit and we were reminded that our very lives, as we live good lives, reflect that light that illuminates the world (in my religious terminology it would be the Light of Christ).  The candle walked down the aisle with but ahead of the casket.  The priest mentioned that in various times of storms or power outages, we race for the batteries or flashlights. But when all else fails, we  go for the standby...the candles, We strike a match and this flame starts and dashes away the darkness in front of us. But IF we place the candle on the mantle the light from this little flame, exponentially increases the light after a couple of seconds, after our eyes get used to the change.

The priest began his sermon by telling us about a priest who teaches at Benedictine High School here in Cleveland.  Summer being the time off from school classes and time for vacations, this priest was invited to speak to a group of nuns in Minnesota.  There was one sister he got to know quite well...she being 102 years old (at this point Karen commented to me that she thinks this nun probably taught her kindergarten).

This 102 year old nun had been in this particularly place for 20 years, having been retired from service.  And in those 20 years she had begun to paint, becoming quite an artist.  The priest asked her about her painting. She said that she started to paint NOT to fill her time but to give something of herself, to leave something of herself. And as she passed by various pictures hanging on the walls, she might look at one that was completed and think, "I need to make this more blue" and then would do so.  Or she looked at a leaf and decided it needed to look more like it was blowing with the wind, and would correct this, a brush stroke at a time.  And so it is with our lives. We correct each picture we paint every day, with one brush stroke at time, encouraged on by Faith, Family, and Friendship all with the basis of LOVE in our lives.

When we see someone we want to follow we do so, because we want to be like them.  If someone follows Christ in their day to day actions, and if we follow them, where will it lead? Why to Christ, of course.   There is power of persuasion that comes from living the truths.

When your last parent dies, you then graduate from the last level of childhood.  NOW you teach your family all the good you learned from your parents.  It's how we continue to honor those who have died. Rich and famous people die and huge libraries or monuments are built for their honor.  But decades past, and school children will be loaded on buses for a fieldtrip to such a place.  And who meets these children at the buses?  Why a guide of course.  Because he is probably the only one who knows the details of this particular person's life and why there is such a monument.

But the greatest gift you can give Natalie is not to etch her name on a slab of stone but rather etch her name in our hearts.  Allow her goodness to live on in others, creating happiness by choice.  The challenge for each of us is how to take the little things you remember of Natalie and make it live on.

It was lovely.  And a good reminder.  I am sure I didn't get it totally correct and probably my verbage is more Mormon than Catholic but we embrace all truth wherever it is found or spoken.

I didn't have a whole lot of dealings with Aunt Natalie. When I told my other aunt and my godmother about her death, both talked about how beautiful she was.  How she was the most beautiful of all the siblings. How her eyes were deep and penetrating.  How good she was.  How kind. I do remember her kindness, her soft ways.  She always appeared to me to be a lady and perhaps that's what I need to make live in me.

Again, I mourned for Kathy's loss because she lived with her.  But for all the children who now have graduated.  I hope the pains that might be felt now will be replaced as they gather together, letting the past moments of hurt or unhappiness or insecurity rest.  I hope they find strength to unify and support each other.  As I left the St Casimir, Kathy was hugging the last few of us. She said she was doing pretty good today but knows it will be harder as the next days arrive.  I told her "One takes One  Year."  And it does.  Not sure why but I know it does.

I am so grateful that Lisa thought to call me and let me know that Aunt Natalie is gone.  But only gone from this earth.  I am grateful that I know where she's gone, what she's doing and who she's doing it with.  That gives me comfort...more of late than in the past when I did a lot of questioning.  It was good to sit with Karen, her sister Natalie right behind us.  To again watch the teasing and interaction of these amazing women. I am blessed.  Karen says we need to get together more often when it's not a funeral AND when it's warmer.  I think she's right and I think I need to take a bigger part in making this happen.

God bless you, Aunt Natalie.....Thank you


Lin Floyd said...

death is a release for those struggling but difficult for those who remain...

LeAnn said...

My father had Alzheimer's and it was very hard. He couldn't be handled at home. I had my mother in my home for several months before she passed away. I do know what your cousins will feel like after having cared for her for a long while.
Blessings to you all1

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