We are in Starkville today with my family. I have been thinking about how blessed I am to have grown up in a small town with a huge family. Mammaw Kolb had five girls and two boys. She was blessed with seventeen grandchildren. Growing up, most of Mom’s siblings lived within a thirty mile radius of one another, and most weekends were spent visiting Mammaw and playing with cousins. As children, our best friends were our cousins. That’s just the way it was. Times were simple then. I am so thankful that our family shared so many good times and so much love.
Although we don’t get to see her nearly enough, my sweet Ella loves my sister, “Aunt Nenda”, to pieces. When “Nenda” is around, Ella couldn’t care less about me. When Glenda left my parent’s house tonight, Ella pitched one heck of a fit. She didn’t want Aunt Nenda to go. She threw herself in the grass, rolled around and cried for at least fifteen minutes. When I tried to calm her down, she would have nothing to do with me. She wanted her Aunt Nenda and nothing else would do. She was inconsolable.
Oh, I know how my Ella Bella feels. You see, we buried my sweet Aunt Gerri today. She died of a massive heart attack Thursday evening. As I watched Ella throw her tantrum, I just wanted to lay down right beside her in the grass and cry my eyes out.
My Aunt Gerri was generous and gave to others sacrificially; both time and money. I can remember when Glenda and I were in middle school. We wanted a pair of Nike shoes, but it wasn’t in the budget. Aunt Gerri made sure we got that pair of shoes. She also made sure we got new izod shirts, the “in thing” back then. With tears in my eyes, I smiled at the funeral as I heard a friend talk about how Aunt Gerri bought the entire kindergarten class new shoes when one boy noticed Vince’s new shoes. Another man told stories of growing up poor, and how Aunt Gerri would take his grandmother to the grocery store to make sure they had food to eat. When Aunt Gerri saw this man and his grandmother walking some place, she would stop her car and give them a lift. Vince’s college roommate told stories of how he had to lock his bedroom door to keep Aunt Gerri from cleaning his room and doing his laundry. If Aunt Gerri knew a person was in need, she did everything within her power to meet that need. She didn’t see color. She didn’t see rich or poor. She just loved.
My Aunt Gerri was funny. She filled the room with laughter at family gatherings. Her laughter was infectious.
After Mammaw Kolb died, Aunt Gerri became the matriarch of the family. She made sure we got together for holidays, special occasions, and for no reason at all. She usually hosted the smaller gatherings, but if the turnout was big, she sometimes had the gathering at her church. Aunt Gerri,Trish and Nancy hosted a baby shower for me when I was pregnant with Aleck. Since it was Christmas time, they combined the baby shower with the family Christmas party. The turnout was so big that we used the church kitchen and gymnasium. I think that was the last time my holiday travel plans coincided with the Kolb family Christmas party. Even before kids, I insisted that we have a family picture and I am so thankful for this cherished photo.
My Aunt Gerri made people feel good about themselves. She always had kind words or compliments for people. She left people with a smile on their face as she walked away.
Although I’m not going to throw myself down in the grass, I am going to cry for my aunt tonight, and probably many a night to come. I love and miss you, Aunt Gerri. I only pray that I can love the people in my life half as well as you did. You left some mighty big shoes to fill, my precious aunt.