-- Emily Dickinson
Let me tell you about my great Aunt Katie who passed away last Saturday.
She spent almost every day of the past century being the happiest person I've ever known.
Katie never had any children, but that didn't stop her from spoiling generations of nieces and nephews and great-nieces and nephews. And pretty much everyone else.
She absolutely delighted in people.
Katie also loved to tease. She thought little things were funny.
And if you happened to be a great-nephew with a penchant for both playing jokes and telling them, you could soon get her to giggle with unrestrained joy.
She always sounded happy, and answered the phone with a distinctive sing-song voice, ("Hel-low"), dropping half an octave between the syllables.
Katie and my late great-uncle Russell lived on a farm in central Kentucky right out of children's storybooks.
It was huge and had been in the family since the 1800s. It had livestock. It had barns with lofts full of hay. There were cats and kittens everywhere.
There were tractors, too. Five or six. And they'd let me drive them.
Aunt Katie would feed you, too. Everything was good. Fresh. Homegrown.
Years later, after we'd outgrown the tractors and the haylofts, we'd still gravitate to that kitchen table and its vegetables and casseroles and the iced tea, which we'd take out on the porch where we'd sit and talk and swing and watch the sun go down over the fields, and think, "This must be what heaven is like."
And if you needed reminding, an angel named Katie would suddenly come out the screen door and ask whether anyone might like one more slice of cake.
She's an angel full time now.
When Katie passed away last weekend just short of 97, most all of us who knew her and loved her and were loved by her comforted one another by saying it was time.
We talk about those who die too young, but she could be seen as the other extreme -- those who die too old.
She had outlived her husband, sister, two brothers and a host of other family members and almost all her friends.
She had spent the last few years in assisted living because she'd had a few bad falls out on the old farm, and she agreed she needed to be someplace where people could watch her.
She spent much of the last decade being the happiest person in the nursing home.
You could always find the room she was in, because the nurses and aides walking out of it would be smiling.
We should all be so happy.