Goodbye, Lavon

Brendan and Lavon pick blueberries in Wisconsin.

Just a few weeks after the loss of my uncle Steven, my family experienced another loss — my aunt Martha’s mother, Lavon, died from breast cancer. She was 80.

I’m not sure how Lavon is technically related to me (my aunt married my Dad’s brother, does that make Lavon my great aunt? Grandmother-in-law once removed?), but that is, of course, not important. In recent years, I was fortunate to get to know Lavon well. First, when I worked at the Corpus Christi Caller-Times as a medical reporter — Lavon was a volunteer at Driscoll Children’s Hospital, so I would run into her from time to time when I was out reporting.  Then, in 2007, we had a big family vacation up at Brendan’s parents’ cabin in Northwestern Wisconsin — my parents, Martha, Steven and Lavon all came.

We did a lot of the fun Wisconsin summer staples, picking blueberries and raspberries, going out on the lake in the pontoon boat, visiting a historic fur trading site, eating fry bread, and kayaking. Lavon joined us for all of this.

Yes, even kayaking. Lavon was 75 at the time, and when I expressed some hesitation in her going with us down the St. Croix River, she was insistent.

“My kids wouldn’t let me go kayaking when we all went on the cruise to the Yucatan, and I was so mad!” she said, referring to a recent Mexico trip she had taken with some of her children and grandchildren. “I’ll be fine!”

Well, OK, I thought, crossing my fingers and hoping for the best.

And, boy, did Lavon prove me wrong — she and Martha shared a kayak, and she did fantastic. Never underestimate a 75-year-old woman determined to cross an item off her life list.

That summer was also just a few months before we moved to Mexico City. Lavon — having lived in Bolivia, Chile and Mexico while raising her 5 children — was perhaps the person in my life most excited about my upcoming move.  When some family members were more than a little anxious about us moving south of the border, it was Lavon who brushed away the anxieties. And again, she was right: Living in Mexico City was a dream, one of the best decisions we ever made.

Thank you Lavon, for teaching me these things, and for being a wonderful person to everyone who met you. We’ll miss you.


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