When I was learning to talk, I could not say Gertie (Gertrude) so I called her Googie, and the nickname stuck. She and my uncle Orphus (whom I called Ah-ha) lived next door to my grandparents so I was there all the time. The first time I saw Wizard of Oz in colour(!) was on Googie's colour TV. All these decades later, whenever I see that movie, I always remember the magic of the moment Dorothy opens the door and there is all that colour! And I always think of Googie at that moment. I think I'll watch it tonight. And my love of tea came at her dining table.
Googie was a snazzy dresser and wouldn't leave the house until she was perfect. If someone asked her to go with them, her reply was always the same, "let me put my face on." That meant makeup, hair primped and clip on ear rings. (Only "fast" girls had pierced ears! When I had my ear pierced in the late 1970s, she said, "You know that makes you a fast girl, don't you?")
She loved speed, too. When we would get in the car she always delighted me by spinning the tires. Back then, the slang for that was to "punch it." One day we were getting ready to go to town and I yelled, "Punch it, Googie!" And She did; I squealed and the family still uses the phrase for "get the lead out and let's get going."
Sunday and Monday the doctors told us "any minute." Tuesday I didn't go visit her because her sons, grandchildren, and great great grand children were all there. That evening the doctor said that it was a matter of "a couple of hours." Yet, she held on.
This morning I went to see her and it was obvious that things were not well. I sat for about an hour with her, talking about olden days. I thanked her for being my favourite aunt and for all the love she'd given me all my life. And I told her it was okay to go; there was no reason to stay. I held her hand, and prayed that if mortal recovery was not God's plan, then the end would be quick.
Her doctor came to see her about 10 a.m. He examined her and said that with the bit of weight she had and all the build up fluid (kidney failure) that she would not die for several days - there was no imminent "danger." He said he would make arrangements to transfer her to a nursing facility.
He and my cousins walked down the hallway and left me alone with Googie, again. She had a funny breathing spell, and I began to time her breaths.
The cousins returned about ten minutes later. I was still sitting, holding her hand. My oldest cousin started telling a story about when we were young -- a story of her fast driving and of course it involved a "punch it Googie" reference. As he talked, I noticed her breaths were growing farther apart. I stopped listening to the story and concentrated on Googie.
She opened her eyes, focused on me, and I said, "Punch it Googie, I love you." She smiled, closed her eyes and took one more breath and her carotid artery fluttered. I looked at my watch: it was 10.17 a.m.
And that was it. In that fleeting second my father's and mother's generation ceased to exist in mortality. We have become the elders of the extended family. And I feel like an orphan.
I stroked her forehead, and primped her hair. When my cousins finished the story, I told them that it was over. They didn't think I knew what I was saying but when they looked at her, it was obvious that she had transitioned. My oldest cousin said, "I think you're right, Jim."
What an odd thing, that moment of transition. As many times as I've seen it, I still do not understand. It is that "twinkling of an eye" the Apostle Paul tells us about.
In a conceited way, I think she was waiting for me to help her transition. I was her favourite nephew -- so she told us. Perhaps she was just waiting for someone to say, "you can go; it will be okay." Whatever the reason, I'm so thankful that she waited for me.
There is only one small bit of unfinished business - Last Sunday, in our conversation, we talked about her love of dancing. I told her that I still don't know how to dance. She smiled and said, "Well, when I get out of here, I'll teach you to 'day-nc.'" Yes, she was a Southerner. She made Paula Dean sound like a Northerner.
Right after my cousins were sure Googie was dead, Leon, her oldest son, said, "Well, Jimmy, you'll have to wait a while for those dancing lessons."
I stayed with Googie, holding her hand, until the mortuary attendant arrived. I introduced him to Googie, and told him to take good care of her. And then I left.
After I was in the hallway, I went back and ask him for one small favour - to which he agreed. I asked that when he put the van in drive and pulled away from the curb to say "Punch it Googie."
Thank you God, for Googie.
Into thy hands, O merciful Savior, we commend thy servant Googie. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech thee, a sheep of thine own fold, a lamb of thine own flock, a sinner of thine own redeeming. Receive her into the arms of thy mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.