September 23 …..not only the first day of fall, but it was my Aunt Bernice’s birthday.
I’m remembering her today and the positive influences she had on me and so many others.
As we observed her decline, we realized that just existing is not the same as living,
so I’m sharing some of her amazing life stories today!
I’m so thankful for her influence.
Bernice was the strongest woman I’ve ever known.
She’s been an inspiration to us all, having achieved so much in spite of her physical limitations.
We thought she was such a cool aunt . She planned fun and interesting things to do when we stayed at her house. She took us places, plus she let us walk around on her crutches.
She was born on September 23rd of 1929 just weeks before the Great Depression.
When she was three, almost four, she said she had a bout with Scarlet Fever.
Soon after that her ankles began to hurt.
She believed this may have been the beginning of her battle with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Her parents sought out any promising treatments for her including blood transfusions, aspirin, penicillin, soaks in the bath houses at Hot Springs and a visit to a doctor in Canada who gave her “adjustments” much like a chiropractor.
He taught her father to do physical therapy to keep her joints as flexible as possible.
They traveled around the country extensively in the summer especially as her father was an educator. He would sometimes teach summer school near a doctor that offered promising treatments.
She missed a lot of her early elementary years because of her illness.
She was in a wheelchair in her early years for a while and later, crutches.
Her father physically carried her to school during her frail times but many remember him making her go up the stairs on her crutches at the high school .
I’m sure that her parents were concerned about making her strong so she could live independently after they were gone.
Since she couldn’t go out to play in her younger years like the other children, she had many stories to tell about her family.
She and I collaborated on a family book and also a book about her including as many of these stories as possible.
She told me that she vividly remembered holding the rope at recess while her friends jumped, happy to be at school with them but longing to jump with them instead of just watching.
Once when she and I were working on the book about her life and her family, she told me that she thought ,”If I were ever able to jump rope, I’d have them hold the rope while I jumped until I couldn’t jump any more. When I get to Heaven, I’m going to jump rope.”
I think she probably celebrated her birthday by jumping rope with her new body and rejoicing with her Savior and loved ones.
She was an accomplished artist, having started to paint seriously around the age of forty.
She never let disability slow her down very much and lived a very full life, living independently until the age of 85 when she fell and was no longer able to walk on her crutches. Her resilience and determination were inspiring to so many.
This picture is of her around age 3 at her best friend, Virginia Moorehead’s birthday party and includes a Valentine to Virginia that she had framed.
The small table includes a silhouette of her made on a trip with some of her dearest friends to the ‘62 Seattle World’s Fair, a doily crocheted by her mother, one of her handkerchiefs, her initial pin, her childhood New Testament, and her Pilot Club pin.
She was very thoughtful about giving us family heirlooms and passing on the stories behind them. Our guest room is filled with family keepsakes from both sides of my family and includes an antique bedroom set Bernice bought while working for Lewis and Billie Coffee at Town & Country Furniture.
The wall pocket is my maternal great-grandmother’s. The green quilt was made by my grandmother, Grace. I’m so glad she passed these on to us while she was still here so she could see us receive them.
I need to write these things down so I can pass the stories on as well. ( I guess I just did 😉