The large framed print of a mountain scene was not at all expensive, with no glass or any covering at all.
A country scene was depicted, with a stream and field and trees, a few small hills, and it sort of resembled West Virginia.
I figured that’s why Aunt Ebb had it hanging on her wall. I never heard her say where it came from but my guess is someone gave it to her.
Being primarily focused on the outdoors and working outside, she never seemed to have much interest in decorating. Her home was always very simple and extremely neat and clean. Aunt Ebb liked everything in its place.
In fact, she probably would have had nothing hanging on the walls at all if family and friends had not given her gifts and framed photos.
But for some reason the print hit a creative nerve in her.
She started decorating it.
What was once a plain mountain scene came to life, as she found old photos and cut out various family members as well as a photo of grandma’s house and used gift-wrapping tape to attach the cut-outs to the print.
A couple of my older cousins were walking through a field; Uncle Lin was squatted down by a stream, shotgun in hand; Aunt Ebb in the front yard of the house with grandma; a dog or two, but I’m not sure whose they were.
The run-of-the-mill mountain scene came alive, creating a family tapestry of sorts. An ordinary print was transformed into a work of art, with time frozen forever, featuring the people and smiles and guns and dogs, the memories that are cherished.
Yes, what she did was something that would be easy for a stranger to look at and maybe chuckle, thinking a child had done it, probably wondering why it would be so prominently displayed.
In a way, I guess a child did do it because Aunt Ebb had the honesty and innocence of a child, as well as the love of life that we see in children.
That honesty and innocence was evident all of her life, especially when she died at only 70 years old.
Other family members and I were in the hospital room with her when the doctor came into her room and showed the foreboding image of the spots on her liver. Terminal liver cancer, he said.
He started talking about the options for treatment and of keeping her alive for as long as possible, explaining the side effects and the uncertainty of how effective treatment would be.
Aunt Ebb listened but the news did not seem to phase her at all.
I think she probably already knew it would be bad.
Without hesitation, she said, no, she wanted no treatment at all. She wanted to go home.
She said If God were ready for her to come to her eternal home, she was ready to go. There were a lot of people up there she wanted to see.
And she was ready. Her faith was as sure and strong as is humanly possible.
Families, of course, want to do whatever they can to keep a loved one alive for as long as possible, but Aunt Ebb had made up her mind, and that was that.
And a few months later many of us were with her when she died because she had asked for everyone to come. She knew she was ready, as if she made the decision to die that night, and I think she did.
She asked everyone to sing “How Great Thou Art,” said goodbye, rolled over on her back and drew her last breath. She was gone.
But she died as she lived: on her own terms and in her own way, without fear.
After she died, I noticed that no one seemed to have any interest in the print and I took it, placing it on my own living room for awhile.
But after a move or two, some of the photos started falling off and now I have it in storage and plan to redecorate it the same way she did.
My kids and their kids may not experience the same peace and nostalgia I do when I look at the print. But they will know where it came from and who created it.
And they will know Aunt Ebb, and be grateful she was a big part of my life and, in many ways, their lives.
Charles Boothe is a reporter for the Daily Telegraph and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org