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The lighting of a Memorial Candle not only provides a gesture of sympathy and support to the immediate family during their time of need but also provides the gift of extending the Book of Memories for future generations.
I’m Debra Kranz. I am Mary Ann’s niece. First, I want to thank you all for being here today. Our family, especially Pat and Ann and the kids, have been through a lot in the last several weeks, and it helps to have you all here with us.
This has been particularly difficult perhaps because of the nature of her death. She told many of us for quite a while now that she was ready to go. She had been in a lot of pain and she was growing weary of the pain. I’m not sure why it bothers me so much, if it’s the fact that I’m another rung closer to the top or that another link in the connection to my past is gone. The past of my grandparents, their parents all that went before me to make me the person I am today. Either way I don’t like it.
When I was little I stayed with Aunt Mary Ann and Uncle Tony a lot. They took me everywhere with them. Uncle Tony would put me on his shoulders and take me around with him. He was always kissing on me and I’d say, “you’re much to mushy, Uncle Tony”. Mary Ann would make Mickey Mouse shaped pancakes for the boys and me. She would take us on walks in the woods behind their apartment. I remember walking with the wagon along Grand River picking up pop bottles. They took me fishing on more than one occasion. Uncle Tony would put the worm on the hook for me and if I happened to catch a fish he would take the fish off. Aunt Mary Ann would cook whatever we all caught. These fishing trips and walks in the woods taught me about peace. How wonderful it can be to just sit quietly or walk quietly and take in nature and all there is to offer. Something I haven’t done enough of in my later adult years.
This may be a strange thing to learn from your aunt, but she was comfortable with her body. Most women struggle with this their whole life. But Mary Ann was comfortable with herself. My Mom, though a flirt, was more prudish. So this was new to me.
Now that my Mom is gone I can tell this story, Aunt Mary Ann gave me my first cigarette. I was 12 years old and we were at a drive in. The boys were up front playing on the playground equipment there. And she gave me my first cigarette. First, last and only. I owe her for that, it was so horrible I never wanted another and began the process of trying to get my parents to quit, which involved flushing their cigarettes down the toilet.
I always looked forward to our family gatherings at Grandma and Grandpa Stevenson’s house. The whole family was going to be there. All the aunts, uncles and cousins. We were a small, yet tightknit family, in my mind anyway. It was great. It was always a celebration. There was special food, special fun, special attention. There was love all around.
In the last couple of years before my Mom died, Aunt Mary Ann called her nearly every night. My Mom wasn’t always the nicest or the most appreciative person. But Aunt Mary Ann never gave up on her. If mom didn’t answer she would call me and say “where is my sister?” I am so grateful that she never gave up on her.
But more than specific events, I remember feeling loved when I was with them. You know the saying about how you may not remember what someone says, but you will never forget how they made you feel. That’s what I remember. How I felt loved, included, part of the family. She was rough around the edges sometimes, and she didn’t mince words. But you knew she loved you. She loved her grandchildren and only wanted them to love her back. That’s all she asked, that’s all she hoped for. She was proud of her son’s. She only hoped for their happiness. She knew she had to let them go for them to be happy.
One of my favorite verses is by Kahil Gibran. I think it fits Aunt Mary Ann and her relationship with her children. I'd like to read it for you.
“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, and though they are with you yet they belong not to you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with his might that His arrows may go swift and far.”
I will hold onto my memories of Aunt Mary Ann. They are mine and you all have yours. Last year at Christmas she asked for someone to take a photo of her and I. I thought that was strange but we did it. I’ll be forever grateful for that photo and that moment.
Now we have to move forward. That’s what she would want. She was pretty matter of fact about life. It’s time for the next chapter in all of ours, without Mary Ann Gaffka. Please don’t forget her.
Again, thank you for coming today.