January 23rd, 1926 -February 13th, 2020
*Author’s Note: The following are excerpts from the Celebration of Life service for Yvonne Carolyn (Cairns) Love for you to read, reflect, and pay your respects privately. It was an honor for me to learn about Yvonne and help capture her story. Family and friends gathered for the service at “The Cottage” on the banks of the Wisconsin River. The sun shone and the day was beautiful as loved ones shared both heartfelt tears and laughter over many memories. Yvonne’s son, Todd, shared wonderful sentiments about his mother that resonated with all present. Family friend and bagpiper, Rick Allison, closed the service with a live performance of “Amazing Grace.”
When God called Yvonne home, she was ready to follow. It may feel like Yvonne’s 94 years went by way too quickly. While no length of time will ever seem long enough, it is an absolute blessing to have had this woman present on this earth for over 9 decades. A few years shy of a centenarian, her time here and her time spent with each of you was a precious gift. May you be ever grateful for the gift of Yvonne’s presence in your life and may you learn from her words and actions and how she chose to spend his precious time.
Where we are experiencing her loss- a missing piece- Yvonne is experiencing completeness- wholeness. Her journey is complete. She is reunited in the beyond with her beloved husband, Vince. She is surrounded by love.
There is so much love for Yvonne. I can feel it here today at the cottage, and I could feel it with all the correspondence from the family as we planned this celebration of life over the past months. Love is much more than a last name for this family. A phenomenal addition to this service is the original poetry from Yvonne herself. There is a perfect one to begin with here entitled, “So.” When we talk about missing her so and there being so much love, Yvonne’s poetic artistry captures the sentiments best.
“So” by Yvonne Love
When I am in your arms, and you are holding me tight,
When I am clinging to you with all my might,
When I say “Darling, I love you so.”
Have you ever wondered and wanted to know,
Just how much love there is in “so”?
“So” is more than every grain of sand
To be found on every beach the world ‘round.
More than every blade of green grass,
And more than every sea shell found.
Much more than every bird in the sky.
And more than every forest tree.
More, much more, than the fishes in the ocean.
And more than every star the telescope can see.
More than every glistening drop of rain
That has fallen since time began.
The magnitude of my love is endless,
All according to heavenly plan.
Yvonne loved you all so, and she would not want your hearts to be troubled. May you find comfort in sweet memories, may you find peace in the ways you find her to still be a part of your present, and may you find hope in being reunited with her again some sunny day.
A memorial written lovingly by Yvonne’s granddaughter, April Love:
“Since we lived in different states, my memories of Grandma Love always involved a visit, frequently to the small house in the woods we called, “The Cottage.” While in elementary school I flew alone to Madison for one of these trips. One afternoon, Grandma and I picked green beans from her garden, which was located behind the brick house my Grandfather had built. It was the first time I experienced what it was like to pick fresh, lovingly- tended, vegetables and helped prepare them for a meal.
On that trip, I remember my fascination with the giant clams that lived in the river that flowed near the cottage. Grandma only laughed when I decided to bring them back and start a collection. She grabbed a metal pail and filled it with water so I could play with the poor creatures. Grandma clearly delighted in the things children said and did. I loved it when she laughed since it made her whole body shake. At that age, the feeling of something you said or did bringing another person joy was magical, especially when their reaction was so big.
It wasn’t all laughs, though. I remember the first time I realized Grandma took cribbage very seriously. It was a rainy day at the cottage and Grandpa had left to run an errand. Grandma was watching over me and she decided it was the perfect time to teach me cribbage. Well, a funny thing happened; I started to win. You could see the consternation on Grandma’s face as she checked my cards to make sure I got it right. As the game progressed, she grew quiet and more serious. We finished the game and she wasn’t interested in playing another. When Grandpa
eventually came home, she told him the story with a sense of subdued pride that I beat her at her favorite game.
When I visited her, my grandmother let me be myself, even if that meant I hid away in the top bunk of her camper, reading the tattered copy of Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tales that she gave me. She didn’t mind that I would sometimes rather read than run around. Grandma never had a critical word about my appearance or life choices. There was freedom in the safety of knowing that you were loved no matter what and, for that, I am forever grateful for those trips.
One of my favorite things to do at the cottage was to look through family photos. We were lucky to have photos dating back to the late 1800s. In the Cairns family, there were a couple photos showing four generations. It made me realize there was something special about meeting a great-grandparent. For this reason, I wanted Grandma to meet her great-grandson, Owen. I knew that Grandma had dementia, but we planned the trip anyway and in August of 2019, we flew to Wisconsin.
When I saw Grandma, it was clear that she didn’t recognize me and I thought we were too late for her to have a meaningful experience with Owen. We went out to lunch and Owen made her a picture with stickers we had brought along to keep him occupied. After we returned home, Carolyn let me know that Grandma remembered meeting Owen and talked about the picture he made for her. This was true a few months later when I called Grandma for the last time. When I said I was glad she got to meet her great-grandson, Owen, she repeated, “Oh, yes, Owen.” Her love of children was that strong; she had forgotten me, but Owen stayed with her.
May we all remember her love, her creativity, her generosity, and her laughter; the qualities that endured and defined her life.”
I corresponded for months with Yvonne’s daughter, Carolyn, about this service. It has been a wonderful honor to learn from her about her mother and to read copies of the memorial tributes from her and other family members as they were shared with me. The theme of so much love for Yvonne was ever-present. All of you gathered here today knew and loved her. You know the stories and all the fun, special, and heartfelt details. Even this cottage, in Yvonne’s family since the 1940s, holds memories. As we continue to honor her life story here today, may your heart and cherished memories fill in the details as if a photo slideshow were playing in your mind.
Yvonne’s skill with poetry challenged me as I dared to compile a summary of her life for us to celebrate today. Her poem entitled, “Who Am I?,” gently reminds us that a person is ultimately much more than appearances and the tasks they complete in life. People are unique in ways we may not even notice nor understand until they have left us. Each person has purpose and desires to be heard and respected for being simply who they are.
In Yvonne’s words:
“Who Am I?” by Yvonne Love
Who am I, who can I be?
All these years, four seasons long.
Spring, summer, autumn and winter.
Grey days, golden days, mute and song.
What is it I am always searching for?
Can it be only the desire to belong?
Must I nod in agreement to one and all?
Even though I believe they are wrong?
No! Let me not fade into the crowd,
Making invisible my own uniqueness.
True or false makes little difference.
My request for now and for all eternity,
Is let my thoughts come pouring forth,
And let someone listen, just because I am me.
I think that is fantastically, subtly powerful. Very well done, Yvonne. Her request is for all eternity that her thoughts may pour forth. That will be accomplished through each of you as you incorporate her attributes that you admired into your own life and how you breathe continued life into her legacy.
Yvonne Carolyn was born in Madison on the 23rd of January, 1926 to John and Mildred Cairns. She had one brother, Gordon. Later in life, Yvonne’s parents were affectionately nicknamed “Grandpa and Grandma The Great.” Yvonne spent her early years living in the downtown area before the family moved to a bungalow on Lake Monona. Living on the lake was her favorite and she immensely enjoyed all the boating, fishing, and swimming opportunities with her brother, Gordy, friends, and family.
She cherished memories of summer weeks spent with Aunts and Uncles, of family picnics, outdoor time on the family farm, and other enjoyable and supportive family connections. She attended Frank Allis Grade School where she formed friendships that lasted through her East High School years and the rest of her life. Attending services with her friends, she found her faith in the Lutheran Church and was a member of Trinity Lutheran in Madison for the majority of her life. Privately, she found solace in prayers and Bible readings.
We are blessed to hear directly from Yvonne once again about this time in her life, in her original poem entitled, “Boating on Monona.”
“Boating on Monona” by Yvonne Love
When I sit at the stern of the boat,
And the wind blows through my hair,
I feel so happy and so content,
Neither body nor mind have a care.
The white spray draggles behind,
The water ripples smoothly by,
The green of the trees are silhouetted,
Against the azure of the sky.
It is all very serene, and yet,
I don’t mind when we turn to the shore,
Because there will be other days,
When we may return for more.
On her 17th birthday, Yvonne went with friends to a dance. She met a shy young man from southern Missouri named Vince Love who was reluctantly dragged to the dance by his friends. Vince was enlisted in the Navy and at the UW-Madison campus for radio communications training. Vince was soon eternally grateful to his friends for bringing him out that evening. When Vince saw Yvonne, he was lovestruck. Vince said, “She was the most beautiful woman I ever saw.” He was still expressing that sentiment when he was 90 years old.
In the midst of WWII, Yvonne and Vince were married while he was on leave from the South Pacific. He returned to Madison for their April 18th, 1945 wedding at Trinity Lutheran Church. During the war, Yvonne worked in a local munitions factory precision measuring small bomb casings. Soon after the war ended and Vince’s discharge from the Navy, the couple began their lives together in Madison. They welcomed four children into the world, Carolyn, John, Todd, and Roi, and bought land in the Town of Blooming Grove. It was there that they built their brick ranch house that became the Love’s family home. Their marriage, like that sturdy, brick house, was infallible until death parted them after 69 years.
As a mother and housewife, Yvonne was thrifty and organized. Meals for two weeks at a time were posted on the refrigerator. With only one car, trips to the store were once-a-week and well-planned. Yvonne would drive Vince to work on Fridays so she could efficiently run her errands. Ingredients were basic and many items grown at home. Tomatoes from the garden were canned, and grapes from the arbor were made into jelly. School shopping for the children in August was limited to a couple outfits, underwear, and a pair of shoes each. It came as a shock when John outgrew his pants and shoes several times during one school year.
Yvonne put miles on her sewing machines. Her old Singer treadle limited her speed, but once she had an electric machine, she was a match for Mario Andretti. Seams weren’t always straight, but they were sewn in record time. She made some of her own clothes, Halloween costumes, a nifty Western outfit for a lucky son one Christmas, curtains, and even new seat covers for the “Blue Goose,” one of the family cars. She handmade braided rugs for the living room which involved her kneeling on the floor to sew the braids into place. Pregnant at the time, she may have needed help getting up off the floor; but, as you can imagine, she probably managed on her own. Yvonne thoughtfully and lovingly created a functional yet comfortable home.
Once all the kids were in school and the family had a second vehicle, Yvonne was able to get a job. She enjoyed a variety of work such as being a proofreader for a local printer, a nurse’s aide at a middle school, and a parking attendant. At one job, Yvonne and six other women were let go. In solidarity, these women filed and ended up winning an age discrimination law suit. I can’t help but go back to her poem, “Who Am I?,” and her words, “Let me not fade into the crowd, making invisible my own uniqueness.” In a calm, confident, gentle way, Yvonne was true to herself and she did what was right and good.
Beyond her work, though, she most loved checking the Thursday newspaper for Friday garage sales. If an ad seemed promising enough, Yvonne would meticulously map out and time a way to get some antiquing in before work. While always at work on time, she had much fun and success with these Friday morning excursions. She often found furniture to refinish and utilize at home for many years to come. Browsing antique malls with her daughter later in life, Carolyn could always tell where her mom was by her tuneless humming.
Carolyn explained, “(Mom) was always busy with meals or housework or running errands or something. At least it seemed that way. I don’t think she sat still much except to knit a scarf or baby booties or to darn or mend, or on her deer stand at Thanksgiving, returning to the warmth of the cottage red-nosed, glasses steaming. She made all her responsibilities look effortless.”
Yvonne was cheerful and sociable, able to strike up a conversation with anyone. She rarely complained. She was generous and helpful. She loved being around family, and she was in her element organizing a picnic or meal. She enjoyed cooking for others. Her gravy may have been a little lumpy, but everything was made with love. She embraced jokes and laughter and laughed hardest when the joke was on her. She was pragmatic with her tasks and completed whatever needed to be done. Near the end of her time, though, she did appreciate several years of not having to clean house or wash dishes.
It could be said that Vince and Yvonne were ordinary people, but together they were an exemplary couple. They were great friends and so good for each other. Yvonne would say what was going to happen, and Vince would say ok. They truly were close to each other. As their daughter said, “Almost like they were one entity.” There were no pretenses, no images to uphold. They purely loved and respected each other. And they walked hand-in-hand through their life journey.
They enjoyed traveling to family reunions, state and national parks, and to California, Wyoming, and Virginia- wherever their kids and grandkids were. Upon retirement, the Loves had fun becoming snowbirds and eventually year-round residents in Southern Texas. Summers would find them back here at the cottage on the Wisconsin River. This was their favorite place to be. They happily traversed the country in their truck with a bed topper-turned-camper until their age and health coerced them to settle back in Wisconsin. The years they spent traveling, just the two of them, were some of the happiest times of Yvonne’s life.
Yvonne didn’t let much stand in her way. At 75-years-old, she accompanied her daughter and niece to Scotland. Comforted that “the boys” were looking after Dad at home, she tackled walking excursions in London and Edinburgh. She sat stoically in the passenger seat while daughter Carolyn, frantically lost, was almost the cause of a roundabout crash in Edinburgh. Upon arrival at the farm where Yvonne’s Scottish great-great-grandfather was born, she walked onto the property without hesitation to take photos while Carolyn sat in the car completely embarrassed. What a fun and memorable blessing that trip was for the 3 generations of women.
In their 80s and 90s when their journey brought them to an assisted living home, Vince and Yvonne (wearing her sparkling rhinestone earrings) still walked hand-in-hand down the halls and to the dining room. Always connected. Forever a team. Eternally in love. After missing him dearly for over five years, Yvonne passed on Vince’s birthday last year. May you know in your heart that Yvonne is once again walking hand-in-hand with her loving Vince. Their simple, yet powerful love binds them together for always. And may you feel their love always surrounding you and their spirit still with you as you journey onward.
There is much we can learn from the simplicity and sincerity of Vince and Yvonne’s relationship and their lives well-lived. There weren’t many extras, but their children had all they needed, and they knew they could count on mom and dad. They didn’t go out much, but there were family meals and jokes around the dinner table. There weren’t fancy parties to attend, but good friends came over to play cards. Extravagance wasn’t a lifestyle goal, so they were free to enjoy the present. Ordinary people with an extraordinary message for all of us.
Yvonne’s son, Roi, captures this beautifully in his memorial tribute that he sent from overseas to be shared today.
From Roi Jaxen,
“I have kept just one thing from our mother’s hand, and she had many creations over a lifetime. It is a photo she shot of me and our first Labrador Retriever, Lucky. The two of us are walking back to Jack’s Cabin (“the Cottage”), my arm draped over his back (he was about shoulder height to me at the time). And, in the other hand, I carry a fistful of purple ironweed flowers I had picked for Mom. It was early evening, the light was subdued in shadow. The grass was in seed and as tall as I on that late summer day. I remember I was thinking of placing the flowers in a vase, but those frivolous things weren’t kept where nature abounds. A tin can would do.
That picture sat for many years under glass on a Hoosier cabinet that Mom had refinished and converted to a desk, so I feel it was one of her favorite compositions. Like the oil still life of a ceramic water pitcher and a pot of sansevieria snake plant hanging on the wall opposite the desk.
I was about 13 when the photo landed there, the Hoosier no longer used as a desk after John left for boot camp. By the time the photo came into my possession, it was witness to another ten or more years of our parent’s lives on Droster Road. Everyone who crossed the foyer passed that cabinet. Every morning Mom sat on Dad’s lap before his carpool came to take him to work for the day, in full view of that photo, but my back is turned to keep from prying.
For me, this picture speaks of Mom’s example on relationships. Find one good friend. Throw your arm around them. Then walk the gnarly backroads of life together. Oh, and remember to carry a gift of beauty for those you love. That is a lesson for us across all generations.”
God bless you and keep you, Yvonne, and may you rest in eternal peace knowing you are dearly loved by your 4 children, 7 grandchildren, 8 great-grandchildren, 3 nieces, many cousins, other relatives, caregivers, and friends.
I’ll leave you with these thoughtful words from Yvonne herself, in a poem she wrote entitled, “Beyond.”
“Beyond” by Yvonne Love
Beyond, what is beyond:
Beyond the horizon,
Beyond the deep green sea,
Beyond the star?
We will never know, until we go
My sincere condolences and love, Holly