Our sister Patty's keychain has four beaded words that hang from it: Lacie, Rayna, Bridget, Cora. These are the names of her children (ages 3-10). As some of you know, Patty Gehring (Stafford) died suddenly last December from heart failure, leaving behind her girls and her husband, Lonnie. She was a smart, compassionate, funny woman; she loved to laugh. She was also a beautifully patient, adoring mother. We are devastated by her death. Shocked by what our lives will now be without her.
Since she died, we have been making frequent trips from our homes in Seattle, Chicago, and New York to Tee Harbor to help Lonnie and the girls cope day to day. This has turned out to be a great comfort - to be in her home, holding her children, and connecting to the community in Juneau that she loved so much. In turn, the love and support that the community has extended to us, and to Lonnie and the girls, has been remarkable. Delicious meals have been delivered three nights a week; children are picked up and dropped off to dance class, Sunday school, gymnastics, piano; playdates and overnights are abundant; neighbors stop by regularly to check-in and show their love.
A few of Patty's closest friends told us on our last trip to Juneau that they were planning a Taco Feed at Auke Bay Elementary to raise funds for airline tickets so that we could continue to have a regular presence in the family's life. On April 9th the doors swung open at the school and hundreds of friends and neighbors gathered, ate tacos and auctioned desserts, all in support of the "Auntie Travel Fund." The turnout, as well as the amount of money that was raised, has left us astounded and filled with gratitude.
While words don't seem sufficient to communicate our appreciation, we would like to say thank you for this amazing show of support. We are humbled and inspired by those who created this event and those who attended and gave so generously.
The next time you stop by the Gehring home, you might notice a small basket that hangs just inside the door. It's where Patty kept her keys. And when we're visiting and helping out with the kids, there's cause to use those keys quite a lot! It's smart to have a place by the door to keep your keys so they don't get lost. She knew this, I think. And perhaps, as well, that her children, her family, would always be kept safe - held close inside this extraordinary community of friends.
Thank you so much.
Patty's sisters: Peggy Stafford, Molly Sullivan and Katie O'Mahony
(with Lonnie Gehring, Bob and Roseanne Stafford)