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A niece’s perspective on the ‘dignity’ of life

Just last week, several of us were discussing the subject of obituaries and how one of the daily papers in our region only provides seven lines or so in tribute to a person’s life without the family paying for additional lines. My friends and I came to the conclusion that the meaning of a life is difficult enough to capture in a lengthy obituary, and that seven lines seem to diminish the very dignity of every life.
Some of us jokingly decided that we would try to provide The Corydon Democrat with information for our own obituaries.
Little did I know that within a few days, my dear Aunt Pauline Churchill would be called home by her Heavenly Father. Although I haven’t had the pleasure of being near her for many years, she was one of those women who certainly influenced my life in ways that belie description. I remember images when I was a young child of my Aunt Pauline who had almost daily influence in my activities. To say the least, she was highly organized, and highly motivated in the order of family life and of home making. At that time I viewed the influence as perhaps interference.
She grew up on the farm where I now have the privilege of rearing my children and grandchildren here in Harrison County. As age brings a sense of reflection on the things that endure and the experiences that are important, the roots of family somehow acquire more meaning. When it comes to Aunt Pauline, her roots were strong in the life on Blue River in Spencer Township almost 100 years ago. I believe she was the first born in the home that my grandparents built and loved.
She left the farm, but returned when she could or when she was needed. She helped with the care of my mother, Edna Mae Rouark Steerstedter, during her final illness. She helped care for me and my sister when our mother died before I was two.
She gave exemplary service to our county in the late 1950s and early ’60s as administrator of Harrison County Hospital. Throughout the years, I have had many people recall her tenure there as a time when she, with the help of the board of trustees, assured the very future of the little hospital on the hill. I have been told that each day she visited every patient in addition to her other administrative duties.
I didn’t fully appreciate her service to others, including our Harrison County community. I didn’t even recognize her undaunted faith in God, her strength of character, her generosity, and her sense of humor until much later in my life. My admiration for her strength of character grew tremendously when she returned to Louisville, interrupting her retirement to care for her sister Hildegard during her long illness in the early 1980s. During all that time, she never complained. She considered it a privilege to provide many weeks of 24-hour duty to care lovingly for her sister.
I believe that my perspective on Aunt Pauline’s life is limited by my ability to write, recall and reflect. I know that I haven’t given her life the accolades that she deserves. I know that others could do so much better.
Editor’s note: Shirley Raymond has also spent a good part of her life in the service of others. She is the director of Harrison County Community Services.