How many of us can say we have five generations of family living all within driving distance? Very few. It’s a special, living legacy gift and one that we have in our family that starts with our Great Aunt Iris, who never married and is my late great-grandfather Odin’s sister.
We are Iris’s family. She has been a mentor to all of us from my grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, siblings and now to our kids. She was my grandma’s special aunt. She was my mom’s childhood pen pal. She was my childhood pen pal and then when I was about eleven years old she moved back to our North Dakota town. Iris became one of our family’s closest friends. We shared many laughs and wonderful times together and continue to today.
Iris exudes class. She is humble and gives more to others than anyone I know. She shares amazing, detailed stories with us of her childhood, early years of teaching and life lessons along the way. Iris set the standard for education in our family, graduating from the University of North Dakota in 1928, the year before my grandmother, her niece, was born.
Just over a month ago our youngest child, Anika Iris and I helped Iris celebrate her 109th birthday.
Yes, 109 years old. She still has her wit and memory. She hasn’t forgotten any stories. She doesn’t want any fanfare for her living legacy status but I recognize her example has impacted generations of my family. Here are a few photos with captions from our day of celebrating Iris at 109 years old.
Anika Iris, age five and Iris, age 109
My Great Aunt Connie with my Grandma Nola. They are nieces to Iris. Aren’t they beautiful ladies?
An iris in honor of the special woman in our lives.
Anika was very excited to be at the birthday party (while her siblings were in school) and shared a big hug with Connie’s daughter and my mom’s first cousin, Amy.
Every resident of the nursing home that Iris lives in wore a tag in honor of Iris’s 109th birthday. Most residents are not in the great shape Iris is in and all agreed what a special, treasured lady she is.
Coffee with Connie. My mom brought some china of Iris’s from her house for us to have our birthday party with on the special day.
Anika loves Great-Grandma Nola. As I snapped these photos I thought about what treasures they will be for Anika when she is older.
Connie and Amy brought a salted caramel cake. It was tasty!
(My mom never misses details and in addition to the china, had along linens, dishes and mints for our party.)
Five generations. This makes me cry with pride and joy.
Iris, my grandma, mom, Anika and myself (along with our families) live in North Dakota, where we all were born and raised. Connie and Amy come back to visit like many family members do. I am the woman I am today because of the living legacy these women have been to me. Their examples, direction, insight and accountability empower me. And now, a fifth generation, our three children, my niece Nola, a namesake after my grandma and future nieces and nephews get to grow up in the same rich environment, surrounded by generations of family that love and encourage them.
Hug your family members today. Drive to visit them. Call them. Skype them. Whatever you can do to maintain and grow your relationship with them, do it. We all won’t live out a legacy of 109 years. Capture your moments today. I am grateful, humbled and blessed by the moments our family shares together on the North Dakota prairie.
Who is a woman in your family that has impacted who you are today?
Valerie Plagge says
This post made me think a lot of my Great Grandma Mae (who our daughter is named after). My Great Grandma was a huge part of my life, living just 20 minutes away my whole life. She passed away when I was a senior in college at the age of 96. My Great Grandma was special for many reasons but one that truly made her amazing was that she lost her mother at a very young age, after her mother had given birth to her younger sister, so their Dad raised two daughters on his own. She didn’t grow up in a religious household because her Dad was always having to work to provide for her and her sister, plus I think loosing his wife at such an early age made him upset at God. Anyways, when my Great Grandma met my Great Grandpa when they were 16 their first date was to a church picnic. This was a new setting and environment for my Grandma. That picnic not only made her fall in love with my Great Grandpa, but also fall in love with God. My Great Grandma was one of the strongest women I know because of her faith. She could recite passages, bible verses, hymns, etc. She was amazing. I have so many memories of her and am so happy I could spend so many years with her.