Mary Louise Fischer
June 6, 1914 – September 10, 2016
The text came through on Saturday. I went in the kitchen looking for my wife. “Mary, Aunt Lou passed away this morning.”
At 102 years of age, Mary Louise (Trout) Fischer had lived from before the beginning of World War I through the roaring twenties, the Great Depression, the Second World War, the cold war, the space age, the information age, and through most of the second decade of the third millennium. She had seen communication become instant, global, and digital and transportation go from mostly horses and buggies to experimental self-driving cars. She saw seventeen presidents move in and out of the White House, from Woodrow Wilson to Barak Obama.
My mind re-played the memories of my last visit to her 18 months earlier. By that time she was a century old. She had survived a house fire a few years before and was safely living in a senior apartment complex where she learned to prepare and relish her own microwaveable dinners. She seemed as witty and perky as ever if you ignored her wheel chair and manageable hearing loss.
I sat next to her in that seafood restaurant in Ft Myers, across from her son, my cousin Tom, and his wife, Cheryl, devoted adult children whose tender care for her shouted their love louder and clearer than words ever could. Mary and I both felt privileged to have that visit with her and them. To me, seeing my mother’s only and older sister felt like Mom had come back from the grave, so alike they were.
A recycled birthday card
The Trout sisters, Lou and Dot, were born almost four years apart, but to us who never knew them as kids, they could have been twins. They were the only daughters in a family of seven siblings. Maybe having five brothers contributed to their sharing the same humor, and their readiness to joke, tease, and laugh at a moment’s notice. They were practical in their practical joking. Growing up in the great depression marked them both with frugality. Once, one of the sisters mailed the other an unsigned birthday card. The other one sent it back on her sister’s birthday, still with no signature. The card got re-sent back and forth for several years. Dot used to laugh till the tears ran down her cheeks as she told that story of how she and Lou took tight-wading to an Olympic level.
How to find a husband in the supermarket
If you doubt that Lou was a clown, consider this. In their retirement years, Lou and Ed, her beloved late husband, used to share the grocery shopping duties. They would go to the supermarket, each armed with a list of items to buy, and then set out in different directions to hunt down and check off their assigned products. One day, when Lou finished her list, she began looking for Uncle Ed. Up and down the aisles she went until she was stopped by a helpful stock clerk.
“May I help you, ma’am?” he asked.
“I’m looking for a husband,” replied Lou.
Instantly Mr. Helpful dropped to his knees and pleaded, “How about me? Will I do?”
Lou, without missing a beat, quipped, “I don’t know. The one I have now has lots of experience.”
“I have lots of experience,” he stammered. “I’ve been married three times.”
I do not know what Lou said next. Maybe she met her match. I do know she went home with Ed that day, not the three-time strikeout king.
The phone tag game
In the days when long distance calls cost per minute, the sisters, who lived five states apart, developed a phone tag game with their answering machines. Dot reported that she would try to call and leave a very short message at a time when Lou was likely to be out or away from the phone. The winner of the game was the one who could leave a message obligating the loser to call back and pay for the minutes.
Sunday night, I found a voice mail message on my phone. It was not a game. It was from Tom. “She’s home,” he said. “She transitioned peacefully to be with her Lord and Savior.”
Thanks, Tom. I needed that.
Prayer and tears in the kitchen
Mary and I bowed our heads and prayed through tears right there in the kitchen remembering those whom Aunt Lou left behind, especially her children, Tom and Cheryl and their daughters, Chelsea, Madison and Tara, and her brothers and sisters-in-law, Dick and Sharon and Bob and Nancy and, us, nieces and nephews. “Lord, give us all comfort in the assurance that she is in your presence, the One who is the way, the truth, and the life, who died so that believing sinners would by grace live together with You forever. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.”