Sadly, the last of my grandmother on my father's side siblings died last week. Aunt Esther (my great-aunt) was 92 years old and had been a part of every holiday and special event that I have celebrated my entire life.
We feel very fortunate to have had her with us for as long as we did. Her 92 years were lived simply and in good health. She was a strong woman who lived a fairly solitary life. She lived in the same house for all 92 years! Many changes occurred in that house over time. Babies were born, tragedies broke hearts, and the residents that lived with her changed several times. It was the family home from the time that their parents immigrated to the United States and was a functioning farm when her parents were alive. I don't remember it ever being a farm in my lifetime but my father has many great memories of days spent doing chores, turning farm animals into pets (that did not end well), and playing with his many cousins all over the land. My earliest memories are of Aunt Esther and Aunt Rose living in the house. Neither of them ever married, though Rose had a man that she was very much in love with, but was unable to get her father's permission to marry him. We often jokingly referred to the two of them as the Baldwin Sisters from the Walton's, though I can be positive that the two of them were not making moonshine in a back room. It was a gathering place for family and visiting them on Sunday mornings after church was something I absolutely loved to do. We could always count on them to buy from us when we were selling Girl Scout cookies or doing fundraisers for school. They loved us as much as our grandparents did and we knew it.
It's difficult to comprehend that my grandmother is the only member of her family left. I can't even imagine how hard that is for her. During the course of my lifetime she has lost 3 sisters and a brother. Other siblings had also died before I was born. It takes an incredibly strong person to keep carrying on as pieces of your life and history are taken from you year after year. The Ladzinski Family has been in our town for over 100 years and I know how grateful we should be, and I am, for the time we have had with them all, but it's still so hard to let go of what has always been.
The years to come will continue to bring changes for us all. The house will likely change hands, but hopefully will stay in the family somehow. We will have to create occasions to get together with the extended family because the heart of our connection has now been lost. I know personally that I am not willing to let go. I will make a point to stay in touch and make plans to gather us together. Even though our lives are all busy, we need to do it for those that are gone. They would want that for us. We may not be able to gather where we always did, but the place is not as important as the connection we all need to feel to one another. We are the newest generation and we must carry on.