Bjorn Arneson

I helped bury my grandmother Florence this weekend.

She lived a rich life out on the prairie for all of her 92+ years. She helped make the home I grew up in, before my father was born.

Over the last several years her mind withered away, leaving behind the scorched earth of Alzheimer’s Disease. In a way, her physical death was preceded by a relationship death as she progressively forgot all of her past. Over time, her friends and neighbors, grandchildren, then children all became unfamiliar yet not unwelcome visitors to her sitting room. Both deaths were mourned by those who loved her and each was painful.

She, herself, mourned the death of two husbands. First, my grandfather Lester when I was four. They were together nearly 40 years–on the farm and later in their yellow house on the edge of town. As a newly widowed woman, she found love and companionship in Harold, who I also knew as a grandfather and remember as a gentle man.

She was college-educated, having been helped by a well-to-do cousin to finance her education at teacher’s college in the late 1930’s. As she was able, she paid that favor forward to others, asking only that they do the same should the opportunity arise.

Among other things, she taught me how to golf, knit, play cards and carroms, fish, garden, and more. She was intensely practical–a quality that I recognize in myself more often than not. She did not suffer fools and was quick to help those who truly needed it. She spoke her love into being through acts of service.

I will miss her.