Posted by inpursuitofatoolbox
She was born third in a row of four strong, independent girl children, all raised on an Illinois farm. Each child was given a name that begins with “R”, but this sister made it clear that her name to be called was not her first but middle name – Anna – and woe to the one who called her the R name. She became my “aunt through marriage” and I always knew that when I married her nephew, I became one of her people.
She lived big and bold for just over 69 years, but I imagine that even if she had lived to be 100, she would still have had many hopes, plans and dreams unrealized. She was not ready to go and that made saying goodbye all the more poignant. She was a sentimental soul, and walking through her home this past weekend sealed that view as the rooms are literally bursting with an eclectic combination of pictures, collections, and precious family keepsakes. Gift giving and generosity were part of her core being. Birthdays were always celebrated and gifts could arrive 2 months early or 2 weeks late, but they always arrived and were chosen with love and care. Even in her last months, she received help from those who cared for her, and there are Christmas gifts waiting to be opened for each and every Wilson. We are discussing how to honor this beloved aunt as we open these most precious Christmas gifts.
Anna’s passion for children, education and the underdog led her on a path of scholarly and vocational pursuits. While her three sisters married and began families, this was not her particular path. Though she did not birth or adopt children, there were many, many that she claimed as her own. As a slew of great nephews and nieces entered into the family, Anna secured her place as beloved by each one.
In her professional life, she fought tirelessly for the at-risk, impoverished, outsider, and least among her school district. She passed this fervor on to many in her family and beyond. I always knew this was the heart and soul of Anna, but it was during this past weekend that the genesis and inspiration for these values was revealed to me. At the close of her memorial service, we each received an apple ornament that expressed Anna’s education philosophy as taught to her by a respected professor. “Every apple, as every child, is different on the outside – in color, texture shape, etc. Even on the inside there are differences in taste. If you get to the core by cutting the apple horizontally, every apple, as every child, is a star.” Her viewpoint of each child as star was certainly felt and deeply known by those children that she loved.
I knew Anna as family and experienced her there. But getting to know her better as teacher, boss, and community member was such a joy. Spending Saturday afternoon listening to former 6th grade students, teachers under her principal leadership, school administration co-workers and fellow church and volunteer friends was inspiring. There was not one thing subtle about this larger than life woman. Yet I heard over and over of her strong opinions so well balanced with a big and gentle heart. What an amazing combination. Several times the same message was shared – “I didn’t think I was capable of ______, but Anna told me I was going to do _____ and she was correct; I could do it!”
Anna was passionate with a capital P and could always be counted on to express her opinions and thoughts out loud and with intensity. This drew me to her and often added spice to family times together. Children loved being in her presence. My sister in law said so beautifully, “I’ll really miss her jump-in-with-both-feet life force.”
Over the years, we spent many meals, weekends and vacation times with her in our midst. One thing that always touched me about Anna was that saying goodbye after family time together always brought forth strong emotion – she would hug and hold us tightly, cry and then choke out a goodbye. Sunday, as we said our final goodbyes to Anna, many a tear was shed. That seems a most fitting “goodbye for now” to this beloved aunt who will be so deeply missed.