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Posts Tagged ‘Nora Jane Saunders’

Today:  The funeral of my beloved next door neighbour, Nora.  In the morning, I saw her caregiver, Devery, walk by and asked if she was going to the service early to help set up.  She said no, she was going close to the starting time and so we had our ride.  What a huge relief to be able to focus on the event and not bus difficulties.

At the Peninsula Church Center, we found many cars already there and even a Dial a Ride bus discharging some passengers.  This was a significant community event; Nora was born and lived her whole life on this block.  The house where my friends Tom and Judy now live was part of the family estate.  Nora’s mom lived in the white house on Pearl Street, and lived to be over 100, which is what I was hoping for for Nora.  And for me, to continue to have such a wonderful neighbour.  That would have given us 11 more years.

Nora and her husband, Fed, built the house next door where she lived until her death this month.

Nora's front porch

Nora’s front porch

At the entrance to the church, someone has created a beautiful and well cared for rose garden.  Nora would have admired that as she grew beautiful roses.

Peninsula Church Center

Peninsula Church Center

At the service, Nora’s daughter-in-law Jody shared memories of when she first met Nora and of how much involvement Nora had in the life of Jody’s daughter, Alicia.  Lorrie Haight read a poem by her “fisherman poet” husband, Smitty Smith, all about the first time Nora’s husband, Fed, went fishing in Alaska with Nora’s father.  (I have asked for that poem to share with my Our Ilwaco page.)  Devery spoke eloquently of gaining an extended family during her year of being Nora’s caregiver.

Then a man got up to speak, Pete Hanner from Nahcotta.  Nora often mentioned him, and I learned from Alicia that they had gotten to be close friends just in the last couple of years after knowing each other at a distance for many years.  He visited often and they spoke on the phone every day. Here was his story:

“Some of the last words Nora Jane heard before the angels came and took her to be with Jesus and the loved ones she has lost were her dear Jody reading the 23th psalm from her Bible to her.

Now in my heart I know she would love to have me tell her family and friends how wonderful and comforting the walk with the Lord has been in her life.  So imagine along with me as Nora tells you her story in these songs.”

He then began to sing in one of the most beautiful tenor voices I’ve ever heard a musical version of the 23rd Psalm, after which he went on with the story.

“Sometimes when I’d get to feeling a little lonely, I’d call Nora and ask if I could come visit.  She’d say, ‘Yes, I’ll be waiting.’  So I’d drive from Nahcotta to her house, and sure enough she’d be sitting at the window, watching for me.  We’d laugh and talk like old friends do.  One day she said, ‘I want to show you something, Pete.’  So we went into the dining room, and she pointed over to the garden next door.   She said, ‘That’s Skyler’s garden, it’s on the garden tour.’  I looked over and it is truly beautiful.

She said, ‘When everything is quiet, and no one is around, I skip over there and walk around and smell the flowers, watch the butterflies, and listen to the birds singing, and pretty soon I’m not alone anymore.  Jesus is walking along with me.’ Here she is in her wheelchair, telling me this.  She said, ‘Pete, do you know that old hymn, In the Garden?’  I said sure.  She asked, ‘Could you sing it to me?’  I began singing, ‘I come to the garden alone…’  By the time we were at the second verse, I could hear her sweet voice singing along with me, ‘And he walks with me, and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own, and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.’    We finished and smiled.

By that time, the tears were flowing for both of us.  We had a hug and I said, ‘Thank you dear, what an unforgettable moment; I’ll treasure it always.’  She said ‘Me too, thank you.'”

Alicia had hinted to me there would be a story that mentioned my garden, but I had never expected it to be featured as a spiritual inspiration and could not have been more moved.  We had brought Nora over a few times and wheeled her around the whole place, and I took her flowers often so she could see them close up, and when we built our deer fence we made it transparent so she could see in.  I never knew, though, that she imagined walking through the garden…

He followed by singing the song, the refrain familiar to me from many years of attending Sunday School.

The pastor spoke of the large crowd in attendance, and said many who live to Nora’s age do not have that many people come to their funerals, but that Nora had nurtured and valued and sustained friendships throughout her life.

We adjourned to the reception in an adjoining wing of the church.  Jody and Alicia had arranged a display of photos and of Nora’s paintings.

photos

Nora

Nora and kitty

Nora and kitty

friends and kittens

friends and kittens

Nora loved cats her whole life.  Her orange cat Nuzzy was with her at the end and has gone to live with Alicia.

photos

photos

photos

photosphotos

Nora Jane

Her father’s fishing boat was named Nora.  Here’s a photo of Nora with a painting of the boat:

Nora and Nora And the boat itself:

Nora

Nora

Nora was old enough to remember the Clamshell Railroad.  Here she is with another longtime Ilwaco resident, Mike Williams, in front of the railroad car that was donated to the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum (three blocks to the west of where we live).

Mike and Nora

Mike and Nora

How she would have loved being able to see the museum’s current exhibit about the railway.

Several photos featured Nora’s garden; eventually, I will get these and a few other garden photos together into an entry just about Nora’s garden.

Nora standing in front of her neighbour Shirley Maki's rhododendron, in what is now our back garden

Nora standing in front of her neighbour Shirley Maki’s rhododendron, in what is now our back garden

prize winning rose

prize winning rose

Nora's rose garden

Nora’s rose garden

After her son died in a fishing boat accident up in Alaska, Nora took up painting as a way to heal.  When I first began to visit her home, I admired a painting in the living room and was amazed to find that she had painted it and many others.

Nora's flower painting

Nora’s flower painting

flowers

flowers

flowers

peaches

peaches

I am sure she would have liked the flowers on the cake at the reception.  The bouquet next to it is the last one I brought to her house;  it was so touching that Alicia had brought them to the reception.

a cake of roses

a cake of roses

my last bouquet for Nora

my last bouquet for Nora

This is the Nora we knew and loved, especially the top, probably most recent photo:

our Nora

our Nora

Nora at the Saturday Market (from the local paper)

Nora at the Saturday Market , with fresh asparagus (from the local paper)

To think I have lived in Ilwaco since July 1994.  If only I had met Nora sooner.  (She told me we met once, at the house where Victoria and Anthony Stoppiello used to live, but it was brief and did not lead to another meeting.)  If I had gotten to know her right away, she would have still been getting out and about, still growing her roses and walking about the town, and I would have had eighteen more years of friendship with this delightful person.

She told us to never fail to appreciate being able to walk and to see well.

at the reception

at the reception

After the reception we accompanied Devery to the Ilwaco Cemetery for the graveside ceremony.  The pallbearers bore the coffin, draped with sprays of white flowers, across the lawn.  Peter Hanner was one.  The pastor spoke the words and then Pete stepped forward and sang in his glorious voice…

I’ll be seeing you
In all the old familiar places
That this heart of mine embraces
All day and throughIn that small cafe
The park across the way
The children’s carousel
The chestnut trees, the wishing well

I’ll be seeing you
In every lovely summer’s day
In everything that’s light and gay
I’ll always think of you that way

I’ll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I’ll be looking at the moon
But I’ll be seeing you.

 I already had cried more (as discreetly as possible) than I have in, well, years.  This had us all in tears.  He said something like “Goodbye, dear one.”  I don’t think I have ever seen a moment more beautiful.   As we began to part before returning to our cars, I gave him a hug and told him what a beautiful voice he has.  He said, “Do you know how old I am?”  I said I did.  (I remind you, 97!)  “I’m lucky I can still carry a tune,” he added.

the peaceful Ilwaco cemetery, on a hill just east of town

the peaceful Ilwaco cemetery, on a hill just east of town

It occurs to me we might take Nora more bouquets.  I don’t know if she will see them, but others who go to the cemetery will, and will know she was loved.  We saw a man there just looking at a gravestone, and then another.  Alicia greeted him and he said “I’m just visiting old friends.”

Back home again, I weeded a bit and wandered the garden a bit, and then Alicia and Jody and Alicia’s good friend Anika arrived back at Nora’s house.  I had all the gates on that side open and had already told Alicia that anyone who came was welcome to spill over on our side.  “Can we come in?” she said, and I said of course.  Soon we had gathered on the lawn by the patio, mainly because Alicia sat on the soft cool grass to pet Frosty the cat.  We brought chairs and tables and some snacks together and they brought over wine and the leftovers from the reception and we sat there for hours in the sun.  Fortuitously Gene, who recently lost his beloved wife to the same type of cancer that took our Nora from us, stopped by to see how Allan and I were doing without a car, and I hope that the gathering of others who had lost a loved one was comforting.  He joined us for awhile and later Alicia’s other grandma and her brother arrived.

Gene, Allan, Alicia, Devery, Anika

Gene, Allan, Alicia, Devery, Anika

Anika, Alicia, Alicia's other grandma, Alicia's mom Jody, Devery

Anika, Alicia, Alicia’s other grandma, Alicia’s mom Jody, Devery

Devery, Anika, me, Alicia

Devery, Anika, me, Alicia

gathering

Devery's dog Tuffy

Devery’s dog Tuffy

Alicia said, and Jody agreed, “Gramma would have loved this!  A party!”

Jody said there was one more thing she had meant to read at the service, but she wanted to leave room for others to speak.  It was a poem, I think, that she described as being something about heaven being a garden and Nora reaching from the garden gate to invite each of us in.  Something like that.  Now, the whole day I had on my mind that I do not have the faith that the others have in the afterlife.  I used to and I wish I still did.  But if there is a garden, and Nora is there, and we could be friends again, well, I want that very much.

Alicia's brother, mother, and other grandma, with Devery, who is now part of the family.

Alicia’s brother, mother, and other grandma, with Devery, who is now part of the family.

After three hours, during which the sun descended and we each wrapped ourselves in a warm jacket or a blanket, the gathering disbanded.  They thanked us, but we thanked them more.  The time spent with them helped in the transition from the funeral to ordinary life and with the feeling of bereftness that I feel when I look through the fence to Nora’s house.  You can see how closely it relates to our garden, and how sad it is that she is not there sitting at her back door dreaming of walking among the flowers.

after the gathering

after the gathering

Nora's house at sunset

looking toward Nora’s house at sunset

Nora’ obituary

ILWACO — Lifelong Ilwaco resident Nora Jane Saunders, 89, died at her residence on May 25, 2013, with her family at her side. The only child born to Finnish parents Anir and Aili (Pernula) Kary, she grew up and attended school in Ilwaco.

Wherever Nora went she made friends, and often commented on how blessed she was to have such caring friends and family. For those who knew her it will not come as a surprise she was voted “Best Dressed” in high school and it was said about her that she was “as likable as look-able.” While Nora Jane was very modest about her artistic talents, she was a fine painter, award winning photographer and prize-winning gardener. Her friends, family, and neighbors will attest to the mouthwatering meals and delicious baked goods that came from her kitchen. She was a proud member of the Order of Eastern Star. Professionally she worked for Ilwaco Telephone Utilities and John Campiche, M.D. as a receptionist.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Ferris Saunders, her son, Ronald Cochran, and daughter, Cathy Greer. Nora is survived by six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. She lived on the same block in Ilwaco all of her life, and as you can imagine, had seen many changes take place in the quiet coastal community she dearly loved. She will be missed by those she touched with her grace, class and unforgettable smile.

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