Do you have those Aunts and Uncles that it doesn't matter if one is your blood and the other not, theres no difference…you love them both the same. That’s how I love Florence and Chester. When I was in elementary school our time with them was spent like ND people did back then. The adults played cards and all of us cousins rode horse, played red light, green light or hope to see the ghost tonight under the yard light! Later if we were at Grandma Bruhn’s tiny house in Blaisdell, we would all pair up and sit in the cars and talk because there was no room for kids in the house!
After my Dad passed Florence, and Grandma Bruhn (their Mother) became Mom’s main source of support. We were at Johnson’s a lot and Florence was at our farm a lot too. When I was in high school I was the editor of the school paper, in class plays, ballgames, and her home was always the place to go until dark when Mom got done with her long days on the farm.
Florence’s home was always full of family! Her own five children and later grandchildren. Cousin’s on the other side of the family that lived in Palermo too. Even with so many people in and out of the house, I never saw her have a messy house ONCE! She always had something baked, supper on the table and always dressed clean and neat. She permed her hair every six weeks because that was the style back then and she was lucky enough to have a beautician daughter who kept her hair up. She and Chester always had funny bantering going on, she was the straight man to his jokes. For example, they had a round mirror on the wall in the kitchen and Chester would say, “damn I’m handsome”, just to see us roll our eyes and get a response from Florence. She’d put him in his place with a good comeback, when she had to and he kind liked her spunk you could see. They made lots of yard wood projects together over the years and their yard is always beautiful! They were inseparable as the years went on. They have been so special to mine and my sisters kids as well!
Florence had a heart attack and lost 40% of her heart about 25 years ago. Mom and I sat with Chester and their family asking God that she survive and she did. She was always my Mom’s baby sister who got run over by a car as a child, and to Mom a survivor. She survived that heart attack and like Allen said, family felt like we had her on borrowed time.
When our Mom got sick with Alzheimers she and Chester didn't let Mom or us kids down. They supported our tough decisions we had to make for her and they kept coming to spend time with her all the way to the end of her life. They drove 2 hours sometimes to see her, which was such a support to us kids. When Mom was on her death bed, Florence and Chester were there too. Like you do when someone is dying you question why sometimes. We cried that we were too young to not have our Mom. Florence said, “I’ll be your Mom”, and she made good on it. She never forgot our birthdays and anniversaries and I will miss her card this year and I will miss sending her one.
When it was her time to go we had to go see her and thankfully her family shared her with us this past weekend. As I sat there at her house, I looked at all the things she collected… birds (she especially loved humming birds), angels, and decorative eggs and probably more that I don’t remember seeing.
She passed away like she wanted to. Family and friends came to see her, both Jackie and Tanya being nurses taking care of her. Her kids there, her dog Daisy in her lap a lot, and Chester still doing everything he could for her. My heart breaks for Chester. After that many years how do you find the strength to let her go? Pray for him, please.
If I had a wish for the kids in the world today it is to be loved by extended family like we were by her. Thank you God for the gift of Florence in my life.