Friday, December 31, 2010

Rest in Peace, Tante Agathe (Agathe von Trapp March 12, 1913 - December 28, 2010)

Tante Agathe died on December 28, 2010. I got an email from my brother George, forwarding the news from Aunt Lynne to all of the family. I was glad to get the notice, because before the end of the day I was getting condolences posts on Facebook from friends who had read about her death in the news. It would have been a bit of a shock that they knew before I did. That’s one interesting thing about being part of a famous family. It’s very likely that the general public hear about what for most is rather personal news before you do. It even made headlines in the local Phoenix paper, The Arizona Republic.

Agathe was 97, second oldest of the original children and closest in age to my father. I wish I had known her better. Most of my life, she lived in Maryland where she ran a preschool with her friend, Mary Lou Kane. I have no childhood recollections, and only knew her to be a quiet, gentle woman who I re-introduced myself to in the maybe 3 times I saw her in the past 20 years. (Hello Tante Agathe. Yes, I’m Francoise, Rupert’s youngest daughter. So nice to see you again!)

She was the family historian. I probably know her best through the family genealogy and autobiographies she wrote late in life. It was from her book that I learned about my father’s childhood with his own mother and grandmother; the places they lived, the games they played; how sweet and gentle and humorous Grandfather really was. I learned about the pageants they would put on, the games they played, and the dog they had that could pull them in a cart. There really was a whole story to it even before Maria came on the scene. My father never really talked about it much, so I’m grateful to Tante Agathe for having penned her memoirs.

Here’s what else I found myself thinking about when I learned of her death. Is it sad when someone dies at 97, or is it a celebration that they lived such a long, full and rich life? People offered condolences and said “I’m sorry to hear about your aunt’s passing.” I wasn’t sure how to respond, because I was thinking how amazing it is that she lived so long. My father died at 80 when I was 27. How cool would it have been if he had also lived to 97?

So I asked my friend Harry, who is 91. He’s my sister-in-law’s father who has become a surrogate father of sorts since I moved to Arizona. He lives in a retirement community, still drives a car, plays golf, has a “lady friend”, goes to the theater, drinks a beer now and again, and is great company. He called yesterday to say he was sorry to hear the sad news. That’s when I realized that for someone who is living the life of Riley at 91, news of a contemporary’s death at 97 is just as much of a shock as it would be for me to find out someone close to my age had died. Harry said it depends on if they were sick and failing or not. It’s sad if someone still had a full life, a blessing if someone was ailing and had no quality of life.

I like to think Tante Agathe is rejoining her loved ones who have gone before her. Rest in Peace, Tante Agathe, and give Papa a hug and kiss for me.

Note: Agathe's  book is available at both Amazon and the Trapp Family Lodge online store. I just went to look for the link to the books on Amazon. The price has jumped from $21.95 for a new book to $167.21 for new, $777.00 for used and $2000 for a collectible edition. This completely blows my mind. At the Trapp Family online store, it’s still available for $13.99.