Monday, February 27, 2012

My Aunt Mary

The first time I watched The Sound of Music was at my Aunt Mary's home in Florida. We ate popcorn and freely talked any time we wanted to during the movie, which she said came on TV every Thanksgiving. We sang along with the songs. We loved Julie Andrews.

It was Thanksgiving weekend my first year away at University. I had been feeling kind of low and wondering what I was going to do for Thanksgiving and Christmas that year, when I got a call: "Karyn? It's your Aunt Mary. I want you to come here for Thanksgiving."

I tried to explain about the rules that prohibited me from leaving campus without express permission from my parents unless it was my parents who were taking me off campus; somehow she managed to get permission even though my parents were in India. She sent me a plane ticket and said she would be at the airport in Jacksonville, Florida, to meet me.

I had met her maybe twice or three times before in my life.

When she saw me she gave me a big hug and we whirled off together in her car - she wanted to show me one of her favourite places. It turned out to be a beach, and in the waning light we walked together and she asked me questions about my life. She didn't treat me as some odd curiosity who had recently stepped off the boat; she didn't patronize me; she didn't compare me to anyone else. I was just 18 but she made me feel like I was her equal and that my opinions and observations mattered to her. She listened intently and with a complete absence of judgmentalism that left its mark on me all these years later.

I remember shivering suddenly as a breeze hit me while we walked. She immediately took off her jacket and placed it around my shoulders. "It's getting colder," she mused. "Time to think about getting my fur coat out of storage."

I remember that I burst out laughing at the thought of needing a fur coat in Florida; and I remember that she looked at me very soberly and said words to this effect: "Honey, sometimes you feel a cold that has nothing to do with the temperature. At times like that it's nice to have something to wrap around yourself and make you feel warm all the way through."

It wasn't until several years later, when my Dad told me some more of the story of Mary, that those windswept words took on added significance to me. My brave, gallant aunt had done everything she could to raise her three children and to give them a good life through some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable. She worked hard and industriously at everything she set her mind to. And she was cheerful and thoughtful throughout.

My first US Thanksgiving weekend was wonderful - I was Cinderella to her fairy godmother. She sent me off with her daughter, my cousin, Penny to get me more practical dress shoes for winter than the high-heeled sandals I had worn because they were my only dress shoes at university. I still remember them: 3-1/2" black stiletto pumps with a strap over the arch part of my foot. Very sophisticated. I treasured them all through college.

But it was more than playing Cinderella. She was the first of my Canadian relatives to make an effort to know me and to open parts of herself up to me, showing how it was done.

She took me to her church on Sunday. It was an Episcopalian church and I remember feeling both relieved that I was in church on Sunday and terrified that someone from college would find out what kind of church I had attended and write me up for discipline! 

It was a beautiful, joyous service.

It was a wonderful weekend.

She also came to my wedding a few years later, along with her eldest daughter, Patty. They were the only relatives outside my immediate family who, along with my mother's Cousin Elizabeth, could make it - it turned out that my cousin was getting married that same day! My Aunt Mary chose me. She gave me a tiny porcelain hand-painted Villeroy and Bosch wedding box. How did she know what I would love? I often asked myself as I looked at it.

My beautiful Aunt Mary passed away this morning. She is my Dad's elder sister, the filling between my Uncle Gordon and my Dad. She is now with Gordon and with her parents in heaven, because she trusted the Lord Jesus Christ to take away her sin and take over her life. She trusted Him to protect her, care for her, wrap Himself around her in a way that no fur coat could come close.

She had been in poor health; but her passing seems so sudden. Dad was told that her son, Howard, told her a day or so before she drew her last breath, "You've done everything for us that you ever possibly could ... Now it's time to rest. It's time to go Home." 

Dad remarked, between reminiscences of this beloved elder sister, "Knowing that she is with God takes away some of the sting of her death ..." And for the rest of the afternoon he hummed or sang Going Home, that hymn of comfort set to the timeless melody of the Largo movement of Dvorak's New World Symphony.  

How I wish I had known her better! How thankful I am that some day I'll be given that chance.

And I wish I had told her that now I understand what she meant about the comfort of her fur coat ...

Mary Ironside Jordan
February 13, 1931 - February 26, 2012


  1. You both know what it means to be eldest daughters, forging the way, making it easier for those who follow. Thank you. Love you today and always. Wrapping you in a hug from my heart, beautiful Karyn. With memories of our bright, gorgeous Aunt Mary filling the sky overhead.

  2. Wonderful memories. A treasure it is for her to have a deep place in your heart.

  3. A wonderful tribute. What a beautiful picture of the comforted becoming the comforter. Aunt Mary is now forever with her Comforter. Thanks K for sharing this and for being to so many as she was to you .

  4. janineisenegger@aol.comFebruary 27, 2012 at 10:16 AM

    Sending you lots and lots of love. Thanksgiving is SUCH a wonderful time for friends and family. Our house has always been filled with love, and with us, faith (but not a requirement for any of the many people we have had at our table over the last 25 years), so I feel it is lovely that you had the chance to spend that 'date' with your aunt.

    And, as you have been with me in my home & heart at Thanksgiving . . . I am shedding tears for you . . . xxx

    1. It was always a gift to be in your home. You are another person who accepts and loves people just as they are. I am so thankful for your friendship over all these years. xoxo

  5. Karyn, sorry to hear of your loss, Heather & I think of you often and we love and cherish your friendship, take care.

  6. Loved this Karyn--so sorry for your loss. Such a beautiful picture, both the story and photo. Praying for you

  7. oance again having trouble seeing through the water...I am touched each time I read your memories...this one is a wonderful treasure...

  8. What a beautiful account of your aunt

  9. So sorry for your loss Karyn - beautiful tribute

  10. What a wonderful tribute, Karyn! How special that she was there for you when you needed her! Thanks for sharing about this great influence in your life. I will remember the fur coat quote for a long time.....Hugs and sympathy.

  11. Karyn, you consistently write such beautiful and thougtful posts. And reading this one helps me understand you even a little better. You are much like your aunt. You have touched my life in similar ways and I am so thankful for your love and friendship. I am so sorry for your loss. May the God of all that is good touch you with His love today.

    Much love,


  12. Another treasure that God has chosen to be with Him. Sadness for those left behind, but joy knowing that she's with the Lord. I thank the Lord for those who taught you how to love unconditionally. I've only known you a short time, but you've become like family and I appreciate each of the opportunities we've had to talk and fellowship together. You're always and blessing and a great encouragement to us. Our children love you and look forward to seeing you again one of these days. I can see some of your dad and your Uncle Gordon in her. Love and Prayers, Meleah

  13. I just wanted to tell you how much your tribute to Aunt Mary meant to me. She had an amazing way of making us feel special and loved.

    Your story of the fur coat reminded me of a Aunt Mary memory. Many years ago, she gave me a beautiful knit scarf. As she gave it to me, she told me if I ever felt lonely or cold, put that scarf around me and think of her. It was her hug to me. I guess, she wanted us to feel that we were never alone no matter how cold it got in our lives.

    1. Oh Sharon, what a wonderful story and what a treasure you have! Thank you for sharing it. Everyone needs an Aunt Mary - we are so fortunate to have had one! xo


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