My Aunt Beth died a few weeks ago. Her real name was Bertha Marian White (née Scott), here’s her obituary. I was close to her when I was a kid; she was an awfully nice person, and I’m sad. But she’d been fading for years, and in the way of death these days, Beth the person we knew pre-departed the spark of life in her body. One reason we loved her is she always gave the best birthday presents, and she did that again one last time this month.
Here’s a 1986 picture of Beth’s and my branches of the family.
I’m not going to Net-publish the names of living people unless I’m pretty sure they’re OK with that. Beth is in the blue dress; beside her in glasses my Mom Jean Bray. Beth’s living sons are behind her, either side; the elder is Bill White, who we’ll be hearing more from. The woman in the front married Beth’s youngest and is holding Beth’s first grandson, who is now online at Henry White Music. At the right side of the picture, with glasses, is Beth’s now-deceased husband Ralph White, one of twelve siblings of whom ten are still living.
I’m in the red sweater and my brothers are beside me in white and with a beard in the back row. The woman in black was married to my bearded brother.
That birthday present · Beth’s memorial was on my birthday. It was so great to get together with family that, although I’m only one province over, I seldom see. What a great birthday present; thanks Beth! (And Myra, who organized it.)
Beth was a big talker and a fabulous cook, eccentric in her beliefs and habits. But I was just a kid; it never dawned on me that her regularly staying up till two in the morning on one project or another was because she was running the place, probably — this was the Sixties — with only moderate support from her all-male family.
At the memorial, I learned there were a couple of seriously tough periods when the ends really had to be stretched to meet. I’d never noticed, I was just a kid. And she lost her son Dan, who was a year older than me and I was pretty close to. He was shot by a drunk with a hunting rifle in a parking lot outside a bar. He’d been a party animal and a star athlete and I’m pretty sure he would have gone far in this world.
Beth was never ever without a smile. Now I wonder what they cost her.
The memorial event · It was in Beth’s youngest’s big house in Balzac, Alberta. That branch of the family has had five kids, of whom several are now reproducing. In the first picture Henry White, whom we saw as a baby above, sings Abide With Me, his sister accompanying. Good voice! Henry, an active Christian, also gave us a reading from Scripture (1 Corinthians 4:7-15, James 4:13-15, and Romans 5:18) and a few observations on it. Also there were personal memories and biographical notes from several of Beth’s grandkids,
Then Bill White, Beth’s oldest son, got up and gave us an extended tour through Beth’s life, throwing color on the facts, finding humor and sorrow. It was a masterful piece of work.
Then we said the Lord’s Prayer (my kids wouldn’t even know the words) and sat down with tea and good things to eat.
I’ve grown into another space — multicultural, coastal, technical — but this is my birth tribe, comfortable in their skins on the Prairies. We didn’t talk much about pipeline politics or theology, but I enjoyed every minute with every one of them. Thanks everyone.