The last sibling standing

 The Last One    

               My Dad’s older sister passed away recently.  Aunt Grace was the third oldest in a family of eight.  Four boys and four girls were raised on a ND farm with eleven miles of bad roads separating them from the nearest small town.  That distance was seldom commented on.  What was commented on was how fortunate they were that the country school was only half a mile away.

               Aunt Grace moved away first and moved the furthest away.  She said someone had to leave first.   The first move was east to attend nursing school at a charity medical hospital.  This was before there were nursing classes in colleges.  You went directly to work in a hospital with half your days on the floor and half in a lecture hall.  The hospital offered charity care to the poorest of the poor and also charity to its students who worked for room, board and the instruction they received.  Aunt Grace worked in the laundry. By the time she completed her studies, she said she hated the smell of laundry soap. 

               From there it was to the west coast, where growth after World War II was expanding exponentially and there were new shiny hospitals and the latest in medical advances to work with.  The first to live in a suburb and far from rural ND.  But she always came back to visit – usually in the summer – and eventually with a husband and two daughters. 

               Years passed and the eight brothers and sisters grew old and passed away.  Some unexpectedly, some after lingering illnesses, some whose bodies simply wore out and then there was only Aunt Grace.  She said she never expected to be the last one.  Certainly another sister had always watched her diet better; certainly another brother had been a model for the need for physical exercise but Aunt Grace remained. 

               We nieces and nephews set up an unofficial rotation of visits to her trailer in California.  Some who were now themselves retired spent more time; others sent cards and made calls.    Who has talked to Aunt Grace recently was the question whenever the cousins spoke.  She turned 90 and more.

               Eventually the phone call announcing her passing came.  And now she is not the last one.