I’ve mentioned my mother’s Aunt Cash here before. Her real name was Catherine, but her sister (my grandmother Genevieve, or as we called her “Walkie”), just a couple of years older, couldn’t say “Catherine,” she said “Cashern.” And the name stuck, and everyone called her that. I never heard anyone call her Catherine.
Cash was pretty amazing. She lived alone, something few women did in her day. For most of the early part of my life, she had an apartment on the South Side, when just about everyone else in the family lived on the North Side. I’m not sure why she moved north, but I think it was a couple of things: she had retired, her neighborhood was changing, and she probably got tired of driving all the way north to celebrate holidays with us. I also wouldn’t be surprised if my mother had something to do with it. I think she lived south for so long because her sister Marie lived nearby, and because her job was on the South Side as well. Eventually Marie and her daughter Jeanne moved north, but I can’t remember whether Cash was the first to move or if it was Marie.
Cash, Grandma Holton, and her sister (my great-aunt) Florence would come to the house every Sunday when I was in high school, and we’d have dinner, the eight of us (Mom, Tex, Jim, Kip, myself, and the ladies). After Florence died, Grandma moved in with her son in Ohio. We had a dinner at a restaurant, and I’ll never forget Grandma making a speech, talking about the people we had brought into her life and how she was so grateful to my mom for bringing Cash into her life.
After Patrick was born, Cash came and lived with us and stayed with him while Mom went to work. She got a small apartment in a building not far from us, so she could have her own home, even though she was with us most of the time. I visited her apartment one evening, and what I remember most was she had pictures everywhere, on the walls and the tables and her dresser. Pictures of her parents and sisters, nieces and nephews, great-nieces and nephews, her friends, and her ancestors. I think about it now, and they were pictures of people who had touched her life, and in turn of people whose lives were touched by her.
The night she died, Mom and Tex had gone to see her at the nursing home where she was living after her heart attack. According to Mom, Cash was bathed and dressed in her ultrasuede pantsuit, hair done and makeup applied. They were having a great conversation. Cash was telling them about her experience going to Mass that evening (it was a Saturday), and when she started talking about the staff wheeling one of the more elderly patients in, she suddenly put her head back and died. Mom thought it was part of the story at first, then realized no, she was gone.
I flew in to go to the wake and funeral. At the wake, even though I knew her lifeless body was lying in the casket, I could feel her walking around the room. Not like a ghost, but like her spirit was alive in everyone there. Our lives had been touched by her in countless ways. It was then I realized what “eternal life” meant: had she not cared about anyone, no one would have cared about her, and her death would have been the end for her. But she did care, and because she did, she became a part of what all of us were, and we could, in turn, share that spark of her life with others. Long may she live.
Before I finish off, I want to thank everyone who voted for my entry in the Stream of Consciousness Saturday badge contest, and to say that I’m honored that my entry will be the badge for the next twelve months or so. There were a lot of tremendous entries, and honestly, I didn’t think I stood a chance. Thank you all!
Stream of Consciousness Saturday is hosted by Linda Hill, whon has all the rules and pingbacks at her blog.