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Our Trip to See Mom's Grave in Mt. Lake

by Phyl, Bets, Gwen, Jo, Margy and Loey

During the weekend of October 11-12th we six sisters met at Betty's place and then headed up to Mt. Lake in a large van. Since only Bets and I were able to be at Mom's Mt. Lake funeral, this gave the rest of The Sisters a chance to go see where Mom is buried. I'm so glad we went--added such a neat memory to my life.

We headed off from Omaha early Saturday morning and arrived in Mt. Lake in time for lunch at The Pizza Ranch with a lot of our relatives: Uncle John and Aunt Wilma, Frank and Helen, Helen Sawatzky, Marion (who came all the way from the Cities and then treated the whole gang for lunch!), Barb, and Lois and Jim. It was great to see them again--and we didn't feel like the "poor" cousins! Uncle John hasn't changed much, although he's slowing down a bit--or so he says.

After lunch we went to see Mom's grave. It's so beautiful where she is---up on the hillside overlooking the lake. Betty had arranged for her stone to be inscribed, and it reads "Anna Luetta Jungas Hiebert, 1906 - 1997, Asleep in the Lord." We each put a red carnation on her grave and sang a song for her. It was hard to know she's gone and we can't have her back, but it felt so good to be there together saying our goodbyes to her. She was a remarkable person---as evidenced, of course, by her remarkable children! I still have days when I miss her and Gracie so much.

We roamed around the cemetery a bit and found Grandpa and Grandma Jungas' graves, as well as Uncle Albert's (Dad's brother who drowned when he was 7). Lots of Mennonite names there! Then we stopped to see Leona Ewert, as well as Uncle George and Aunt Elizabeth at the Good Samaritan. Uncle George is as upbeat and friendly as ever. We went to see the Jungas Hardware; they had just celebrated their l00th anniversary. I'll add some information about this soon. Brought back so many memories.

We headed back to Omaha and stopped at Worthington for night. On Sunday it stormed like crazy as we drove. A memory we have in our family is that the weather is always terrible when we go to Mt. Lake, so this fit the pattern. One of the things I enjoyed so much was talking and talking with my sisters. I am so impressed with them and fascinated by what they're all doing---but even more, I really LIKE them. Now that we're getting a bit older, I don't feel like I have to compete with them (usually!). We all missed Grace's being with us physically, but she and Mom were with us in our hearts and our memories.

When we got back, we went out to eat with Carl and David, Susan, Madison and Henry and really enjoyed this time. It's neat to see the new generation growing up. We lose some important ties by living so spread out--Gentry would love playing with all his cousins.

Thanks, Bets, for organizing us. When do we get together again? Before I get too ancient (but still a year younger than Gwen.....ha!), okay?

This was a happening and an event that like Topsy grew and grew. It started with Gwen. She was headed to Nebraska for a conference. She called Margy about cheap fares and Marg decided to come. Then I heard from Phyllis who said she wouldn't want to miss the gathering and would be willing to help with curry the night we all got in. Then I heard from Loey and Jo. And the amazing thing was it all worked and flights were on time. The 7-passenger van worked well too.

As we drove, I thought often how relaxed and perfectly open and at ease we all are with each other. We can share intimate thoughts without blinking. That is an enjoyable, comforting feeling. As we sat in pairs, there were often 3 conversations going on at one time, while at other times we all got caught up in a topic. I sat in front to provide travel instructions, and often I heard a roar of laughter from the back and I wished I had been privy to what all was said in all three conversations.

I was often amazed how the six of us, all born to the same parents and some of us having similar geographical and educational experiences, each experienced home and parents in a distinctly unique way because of differences in discipline, family configuration, birth order etc. Whatever the hardships of growing up, we all made it and have become constructive and caring members of society.

Our mission was to see Mom's grave but the visit with so many relatives in Mountain Lake, the visiting in the car, the weathering of stormy drive to Omaha, etc. made the week-end a memorable experience and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks to my sisters for spending time and money to come here.

The trip. Brilliant! (a popular British term meaning "great" "fantastic" etc.). What impressed me was the six of us having so much to say to each other, all equals, treating each other with respect and affection. What a splendid gift to me--my sisters! I felt a little sorry for the spouses out there somewhere--so take this opportunity to say hi to Frank, Carl, Dick, and Gary.......HI ! The place Mother is buried is beautiful, with the lake and island and trees. Many thanks to those who arranged the trip, made reservations, and all that. The dinners with David and Susan were good too. With so much responsibility represented in this group of women, how could anything go wrong.

The week after returning I put a small pot of flowers on Grace's grave as well.

I think this was the first time I was in a car with all my sisters at one time - that has to be historic in its own right. I also enjoyed the ride as it gave us time to talk and reminisce in a casual way. Watching everyone stitch quilt pieces together while we were driving was an inspiration - I have now taken up sewing on airplanes and airports - not a bad way to block out the noise and confusion. I'm sewing small doll quilts for the beds Betty bought in Mt. Lake at the furniture store. Its a nice way to try out ideas without committing to a year's worth of work.

I thought the Mt Lake cemetery was lovely with the view of the lake - it's the perfect place to remember Mom, surrounded by several generations of relatives. For those who weren't there, we found our great grandparents, Johann and Marie Hiebert, and our Uncle (one of the older Hiebert boys) who died at age 7 when he fell through the ice on the lake. We didn't look for Grandma Jungas' headstone but of course that is there along with Mom's brothers Al and Henry and their wives - plus many others. It's sad to think that our generation won't be part of that - it is there for us to look at but our children won't be able to relate us to generations of relatives. Of course, the price of that would have been to live in Mt. Lake all these years so skip that thought......

I especially enjoyed seeing Uncle George at 94 - hope we can get his recipes and put together a section on our recipe page named for him. I hope I can live as long and as healthily as he has and retain the same sense of humor.

I was taken back in time by the "Fresh Zwieback on Thursdays" sign on the Pizza Restaurant window. Nowhere else in the world would you see that! I especially appreciated seeing mom's grave and now connect that with her final days instead of the Boulder funeral- this is much more pleasant and certainly peaceful. It gave some closure to it all. Another special memory is visiting with the relatives. I always enjoy seeing Lois Marston and the fact that Marion came down to see us was impressive. Of course, spending two days talking nonstop to my sisters without interference from kids, husbands, friends, or anyone or anything was the most wonderful. We have to repeat this regularly. I find myself pulling closer and closer to my sisters. Having lost one makes this time even more precious.

...Whenever I visit Mt. Lake I'm reminded of a Sunday comic strip I saw once, in which the dad takes his children to visit HIS home town. He's told them all about this huge mountain where he used to climb, and the vast lake in which he swam. The children's imagined expectations loom large. When they arrive at the town, the mountain has shrunk into a little hillock, and the lake into a tiny pond. The dad is disappointed and deflated, but the children run off to have a great time anyways, climbing and paddling about.

I seem to assume both roles when I return to my birthplace and the scene of adolescent agony and ecstasy. Everything seems to have dwindled. It's not really miles and miles to walk to school from the hardware store apartment. Relatives who seemed so imposing and intimidating have diminished - literally - with age, and are only eager for company and conversation. Centered only on what all of us are -- the need to love and be loved, for life and its memories to have meaning, after all.

My feelings are always paradoxical. I can't wait to get there. I can't wait to leave. I want to linger a bit, swim in the stream of life there awhile. I am drowning and want to be rescued.

There certainly was strength in numbers. The six of us marching triumphantly into the restaurant (a "filial phalanx"?) -- the heroines who had conquered the world outside our smalltown origins. I listened to all our tales around the table, so proud to be a sister of all of these extraordinary, intelligent, adventurous and accomplished women. WOW! A combined force that could change the course of the universe! No doubt for the better.

Another theme that runs through my mind is "too much, too little" - another paradox. Too much to take in, too little time to do it, for one. Too much emotion, too little outlet for it. At mom's grave, for example. I just felt overwhelmed. Mostly I wanted to just throw my head back and howl, cry loudly, truly lament. DO something dramatic like throw myself on the ground and pull out the grass. But the constrictions of upbringing and years of repressing emotions took over. Too bad. It was, in all, a grand event. I'm amazed at all of you. I'm in love with all of you! It was something like an extended slumber party. Lots of memories, lots of laughter, lots of sharing. May all of you have a splendid year - and let's do this again.