I was trying to think what to write about today, and all I could think about was the death of my friend, June Young. Esepcially after I saw grandson Sam’s tribute to her on Facebook:
June Young 1920-2010. Rest in Peace Grandma.
There really wasn’t much else to say. They’d said it all to her over the last few months of her life.
I mentioned June in an August 21 post — People Quitting Art. June was one of the people who quit. What I hadn’t realized was that she sketched and painted off and on for most of her life, though I doubt very much she ever considered herself an artist. She briefly worked with GRACE (see one of my very early posts), and she was featured in one of their brochures. Asked how she knew when a painting was finished, she answered that her heart beat faster.
Anyway, June painted and then at some point she quit. At least while I knew her, I never saw her put a brush to paper.
But I don’t want to talk about June, the artist. I’m not even sure what to say about the few paintings that are still around except that they’re wonderful. They were a small part of a long life. For this post, I’d rather talk about the person.
And that, even though I know rather little about the life. I won’t try to recall stories of the fire that impoverished her family when she was a child. I honestly don’t recall them. What I do know is that she spent most of her life on the farm, she and Robbie, raising children, dairy cattle and incidental turkeys, hogs and dogs.
I met her at about the time she was turning 70. I was a new member of the family, and not one I think who would normally have been welcomed into a farm family in rural Vermont—the companion of her oldest daughter—and I know when she realized what that meant, it was hard for her. Earlier in her life—I heard about it, we never talked about it—she had struggled spiritually and finally settled into a very basic New England Christianity, one that I and some of her children and grandchildren could never accept. One of the things I realized early about June is that she took Jesus’ words “Judge not, that ye be not judged” very seriously. She didn’t judge. She might frown for a minute when a granddaughter brought a bottle of wine to her table, or a grandson got into trouble with the law. Frown, and worry. I’m sure she prayed long and hard. But she never said a condemnatory word.
There were many tea times in her kitchen, with Mickey the dog who looked rakish with his one floppy ear, her daughter, whoever else happened to be passing. The maple sugar cans on the counter. The clock that chirped like a different bird every hour on the hour. She knew her birds, especially their songs.
June never talked a lot. June was the quiet place in every family gathering, the center that held the whole together.
I don’t mean quiet like the still center of a hurricane, and there was never anything Zen about her. She was a self conscious, physically awkward person, characteristics she and I shared. That was always there. She didn’t fit easily into life; she had to work at it, even in the last few years. But she loved her family—all those adorable great grandchildren brightened her face into a wonderful smile.
The living was hard, but she was always there—caring, worrying, loving. Trying, because she was that kind of person. As Tracey, one of her granddaughters said, how like her to choose to die in the fall so that no one would be inconvenienced by the winter weather.
June was another kind of artist. Another kind of person.