Eighty-eight years ago, a struggling young couple were blessed with a baby girl. For years they’d tried to conceive, but the poor homesteaders could only hope and try again. So when their child arrived, they named her Junior. It might, after all, be their only child.
The family grew to eight girls and one boy – a strong, hardy family of pioneer stock who ranched in the windswept prairies of northern New Mexico. The girl’s name was shortened to June somewhere along the path, and until today, as we buried her back into the same earth that had been beneath her feet as a child, I never knew the story behind her name.
I’ve heard a lot of stories about that large family, because the only son was my maternal grandfather. Family reunions have always been loud, happy affairs. We once rented a place in Texas and had over 300 show up – and I knew them all. We were that kind of tight-knit family.
And so today as we gathered again to say goodbye to the strong matriarch who continued to pursue her life’s calling up until the day she died. In 1942 she gave away all of her belongings except some clothing in a suitcase and launched out into the unknown with only her faith to keep her going. She spent her life as a minister, always telling others – even the lady in the grocery aisle besider her – about her faith and what it meant for her. She was an industrious, hard working woman who had a peace and serenity that made us all want to know her better, made us want to have her know us.
She spent her last day saying goodbye to a steady stream of mourners who trekked to her side to tell her thanks for the impact she had on their life. And to the end, she soldiered on doing the only thing she knew to do – encourage others.
I’ll miss my Aunt June, but I’m also glad for the lesson she left me – life goes on. Don’t waste a precious day.