Tuesday, April 16, 2024
Home Road Trip Embarking on a road trip to say farewell and honor a special person

Embarking on a road trip to say farewell and honor a special person

by Staff

In my last column I talked about a resolution I’d made at the start of 2023 to make a better effort to travel with or to see family. I made four trips last year to see my last three living aunts – age 73, 87 and 93. One lives in Central Illinois – the last remaining sibling on my mom’s side. One is in Germany, the only aunt of my husband’s on his dad’s side, who we met up with in Canada and traveled with for over a week. And the other was near Minneapolis, the last living aunt on my Dad’s side.

I sent that column in to my editor and by the time it printed that Sunday, I’d gotten a call that my Aunt Marilyn in Minneapolis had passed away. It was unexpected, but to be expected. She was nearly 94 years old and in recent years she’d slowed down a bit. Although she wasn’t on the go and traveling as she once did, she was still living independently and still able to recount family memories from decades ago. She wasn’t ill and other than back pain she’d been experiencing on and off for years, she was very healthy. It was simply her time. Time to join her beloved husband who passed away in 2005.

People are also reading…

Her passing made that travel goal I’d fulfilled that much more meaningful and it made me so glad that I’d made it happen. My twin sisters and I had visited Aunt Marilyn less than three months earlier in October 2023, She was so happy to have all three of us there and happy to talk to us and share memories of her incredible life. I’m so glad that we were able to get there to see her one last time, to see her smile and to remind her of what she meant to us.

So, my sisters and I, again, found ourselves making plans to travel to Minneapolis and my most recent road trip was to attend her funeral and work on cleaning out her home. My husband accompanied us. And a cousin, Grant, and his teenage son from Kentucky also made their way to Minnesota to attend.

I’d actually met Grant on a trip Aunt Marilyn and I had taken in 2018 where we had six destinations on our itinerary and she introduced me to several cousins I never knew existed. Part of the trip included visiting the farm where my grandfather was born and where several other family members were born, lived and some are even buried, going all the way back to the 1830s when the land was acquired, likely through a land grant by the government following military service. Grant still owns the farm and I was so thrilled to learn it was still in the family. It was so good to see him again and to remember that I only know him because Aunt Marilyn had connected us.

Since Aunt Marilyn and Uncle John never had children, my sisters and I were the closest living relatives. Her last living brother is down in Florida and wasn’t able to travel and most of the other nieces and nephews are in Nevada, California and Arizona. That meant that we’d be responsible for cleaning out her home.

For the past several years, she’d been reminding me that after she was gone, I would be the “family historian” and I’d get all of her genealogy research and old family photos. I’d seen some of it – on that 2018 trip and in my two additional visits to her home since then.

The six of us spent hours there – cleaning out closets and cupboards, packing things up and moving containers, but also sifting through files and boxes of memories that made up her life. They were world travelers and there were pieces in each room from their travels – artwork, furniture, decor, photo albums and more.

It was sort of a “time warp” experience being there. We found things like an iron with no electrical cord and a huge, heavy old reel recording device – things that I’ve never seen used in my lifetime. We also found pieces of paper and mementos documenting every bit of her life – from a formed handprint of hers from 1930 to dried flowers from high school to the shoes she wore on her wedding day. I found the dress hanging in her closet that she’d worn to my wedding almost 33 years ago. It was like making your way through a historical museum.

But most interesting to me were the photos and family tree information (going back to the late 1600s) that had been tucked away in boxes for decades revealing lots of information to fill in gaps in my genealogy research. In boxes buried deep in her closet, we found birth certificates for family members, letters that had been sent to and from her parents, certificates from her and her husband’s long career in education, immigration papers from when her husband (a native of Spain) became a U.S. citizen, marriage certificates, World War II ration books, yearbooks, class photos, travel journals, a military metal that my grandfather received for his service during World War I.

They’d done great work as missionaries and she spent the last 20 years of her career as a probation officer. They mentored youths, helped migrants, were leaders in their church, hosted a couple from the Canary Islands as they came to the U.S. for medical care and served as interpreters. They made a difference in so many lives over the years, including mine.

It was several days of emotional and physical exhaustion in planning for her services, laying her to rest and closing up her home and her life.

I thought I might be able to squeeze in one stop I’ve wanted to make on each trip I’ve taken up there (three times in the last 16 months), which was to visit Prince’s home and studio, Paisley Park. He’s one of my favorite musical artists of all time and I’ll always regret passing up going to his concert the last time he played in Chicago. But there just wasn’t time and really it wasn’t the time for it. I still hope to make it there in the future.

We did manage to make one stop on our way home – and it seemed a fitting end to the trip. We stopped for lunch at an eatery in Osseo, Wisconsin called the Norske Nook. Aunt Marilyn had recommended it because it “had great pie.” We enjoyed a meal and some pie in her honor.

A couple days later as I made my way through the mountains of papers, I read one of her travel logs where she talked about heading out solo on a road trip and making a stop at the Norske Nook. If you are planning to travel through Wisconsin, plan a stop at one of their three locations for their award-winning Aunt Marilyn-approved pie.

She had a little bit of a sweet tooth and she was spot on about the great pie. We stopped for a moment while sorting through her belongings when we found some unopened mail that had just arrived. In a box was a package of chocolates with caramel and pecans and we paused for a “chocolate cheers” in her honor. We toasted to her amazing life and the love and kindness that radiated to everyone she knew.

Leave a Comment

Copyright ©️ All rights reserved. | Tourism Trends