Spotlight: April Campbell (Aunt_A)

By Sharon Brown (Sharon) on December 12, 2010

We lost a friend this week, and I could think of no better way to honor her life than to go ahead with this Spotlight. With permission from her family, I'd like to share some of April's words and some of my own with you.

She entered my life like a butterfly, flitting from one subject to another and adding her charm, her wit, and her wisdom to my heart. I met April when she and I were both writing articles for Dave’s Garden. This truly is one of the most difficult articles I’ve ever written.2010-12-11/Sharran/6e4445

Nancy and I were going to Spotlight April in the near future. Neither of us realized the article would have to take shape without her. We can only bring to you her words, her joy, her heartfelt love of life.

She was born in upstate New York. Her family farmed and had so many goats, rabbits, grape vines, apple trees, and lilacs it must have been beautiful to see. She spoke often of her memories of that apple orchard, gathering apples, eating apples, and making their own apple cider. Her articles speak of her sisters, covering their heads with their arms as their dad shook apples from the trees, and eating those tiny apples that she called ‘two bites’. Then their farm burned and the family moved to Oklahoma to start over. Those who bought their farmland in New York cleared the fields of fruit trees and lilacs, and I think she mourned their loss for years. When she grew up, she planted a fruit tree in every yard she had, and longed for the lilacs of her childhood.

I asked her nephew, Mitch Fitzgerald,  a young man with whom I also wrote on Dave’s Garden, to fill us in with his early memories of his Aunt A. This is what he said:

“She was always there. She is one of those few people in life who loved, no matter what, or who, or when, or where.  It did not matter what had happened, or how it happened… she was just there for everyone.

The house in Tulsa, there in the far corner bedroom with the wonderful shelves full of shining blue glass, she kept a world of wonderful things that I just knew must be worth more than a pile of gold. Somehow we knew she must have a little of everything in there, because whenever anything was needed she could look around and find something to fill the hole.

2010-12-11/Sharran/e30223She always had us try new and strange fruits that we never ate anywhere else until we reached the mission field. She was the best painter that I ever knew, and she was the best writer that I ever knew, she was one of the best humans that I would ever meet in my life.

Every trip to her house ended with the required trip to Crystal’s Pizza. There she would amaze us playing Mrs. Packman and she would always pull a prize out of the claw machine. She taught us the fine art of throwing a ball and the joys of watching old cartoons with really good pizza. I can still see that wonderful wedding, with the wreaths that hung for so long on our wall afterwards. I can still see that first house with the rescue dogs and the big tree covering the back yard. We painted her office there with water guns spraying the color all over the walls. And there was the little garden right in the front yard with the rock path right in the center, where we planted all the flowers that I knew and loved.  Every time when we went over she would quiz me on the flowers and the trees and the bushes and make me feel ten feet tall when I knew their names.

I remember working together at DavesGarden;  talking back and forth, sharing stories of hers and my mother’s childhood. Learning about apples, and lilacs, ups and downs, and the silly games that older sisters play on younger ones. I know well and have printed around me all of the words of encouragement and love that she poured into me on an almost daily basis. Her prayers touch me the deepest; she had the faith to say there was nothing impossible.  Her prayers all poured blessing, covering, protection, and favor over each soul they were prayed over.

But that was her from the beginning; she was the story teller, the sage, the poet, the artist, and friend.   Her role in my life never changed. She was just there, steady, honest, and unchanging. Loving each and every one of us like there was no tomorrow, yet living life to the fullest. That was my one and only Aunt April.

She wanted to be a full time writer, painter and was over all very artsy. Everything she saw was art. EVERYTHING!

She was fond of saying things like, 'Oh well, in the light of eternity, 1,000 years from now everything will look different. We will forgive and life will go on so whatever they choose to do is okay.'

 She was very strong in her faith - often starting prayers with words like this one:2010-12-11/Sharran/d1fd5f

‘Dear God, Good morning! You are loved!’

Her heart was in her beloved Connection Church in Blanchard, Oklahoma, and she never ceased praying for it.

‘We pray that there will be NO lack in Your House. We pray that the kingdom of darkness will be destroyed in people's lives because of Connection Church. We pray that people will be taught and discipled and that the sick will be healed in and through Connection Church to Your Glory’. 

 She truly never stopped praying, always speaking good and kind words, always encouraging.

On November 2nd of this year she wrote:

"We serve a fantastic God with atomic powers in His being. There is nothing weak in our God. He is the Lord of Hosts (Armies) and Jehovah Jireh our provider. Whoo hoo! Blessed be the name of the LORD!"

She never gave up hope to the very end.  She was always happy, smiling, just loving life all over.

She never knew a plant she did not love, from the common weeds right up to the costly treasures. She planted trees and flowers everywhere she went, and shared them with everyone she could find. There was nothing she could not grow, she had the touch to bring dead plants back to life again.”

Those were Mitch’s words. Now I’d like to share some of my own.

We talked of many things, April and I. Most of our impromptu messages came in the wee hours of the night. Her witticisms crept through, and no matter the hour, we laughed a lot.  Sometimes we thought we might be the only two people awake, and one time she said this about our late hours:

“Guess we stay so busy that we stay up so late that we stay in bed later than we should stay. So we have a bad habit of staying.”

I realize that makes little sense, but she always had such a witty way with words. It was fun that bonded us, as if at the end of the day, our hearts needed to smile. If you can make sense of it, then you know her as I did.

We had another common bond, two actually. She loved to play word games with me and we could do it for hours. She also loved art. She created the most beautiful abstract work from photographs, strictly on the computer. She sent me many of her creations, and again, we laughed our way through them.  “This is my purple dog,” she wrote of the flowi2010-12-11/Sharran/f1834bng creation you see here. And then a story would follow.

But she wasn’t always sure that what she was doing was quite good enough. I’ll share with you some of those comments, too:

“I also create art work out of pics and absolutely love doing that, too. Could sit in front of my computer for 36 hours a day, I think. LOL

I love creating it; have many, many, many that I've created. Some I don't like anymore and some I still like. Just like always.

Sharon, do you think it is good enough to sell? (Be honest but gentle.)  God's promises are so wonderful; glad they were written down for us.

I would so like to sell my computer art but don't know how to get to points C and D from B. I started a computer art forum here but not sure how much I'll really use it. I'm more excited about the new challenger forum.”2010-12-11/Sharran/0a82cf

What followed was a conversation about selling her work through various avenues, and she was looking forward to having her own storefront on Cubits. I encouraged her every step, but our conversations dwindled over the summer, and I worried that something was wrong.

At one point, she wrote me in a panic. She had promised a DG lady some irises, but April was no longer on Dave’s Garden. She only remembered that the lady lived in Kentucky, so she wrote to me for help:

“…. Funny that Dave's name is Dave. David and Goliath.

I'm sad to see DG go away in my personal life, but such is life. I promised someone some Iris and a picture and I don't know who, so that will always bother me in the back of my brain. I promised last Fall before Winter set in, but some huge things happened in my life. I'd love to make the promise right. Sigh. Hey, would you mind if I posted that in your forum? You seem to have a lot of members...I am not a good Cubits momma right now. LOL

I told her that I'd send the Iris and a picture to help do something against evil in the world. Then, everything went crazy and I didn't do the promise. I even dug Iris from the bed and dried them a bit for shipping.

I want to dig some new Iris and make this right. Do you know this person w/out a shadow of a doubt? Is she a member here? Would you ask her to contact me, please?”

She was worried about her niece, her mother, other family members, a neighbor’s dog and her 18 year old cat that she had been feeding baby food had died. April was always a caretaker, but she never forgot a promise.

So I found the lady for her, and I’m sure April found time to send her the irises and the powerful picture.

We talked about writing so often. She sent praises for every article I wrote, whether it was deserving of praise or not. I hope I encouraged her. She told me this about her own love of writing:

“I love what you write!  I've loved to write since about 2nd grade. In 4th grade, a teacher gave the class an assignment called; "Homemade Happiness". I wrote my little heart out w/ all the love for my cat. One of my three best friends wrote a revised, updated version of Goldilocks. I figured that wasn't homemade and was shocked when the teacher fawned over her paper and told her that she should be a writer. LOL; funny the things that we remember and that change our thought patterns. In Sr High, my Accounting teacher told me I'd make a great accountant. I've always wondered what paths I would have taken if things would have been switched around a bit.”

We talked about children, those she couldn’t have, and those who were in her life. I’ll share parts of those conversations with you, because I want you to know the April that I knew. I want you to know how big her heart was.

Dec. 2008

“I guess that is one reason I write; no children and now that I'm over 44, I really don't know if I want to raise babies. DH says there is still hope to adopt. I say we should have adopted before I was 30.

Keep writing, keep painting...keep creating and keep living, Sharon!”

I wrote this right back to her: “Life's hurdles. And it's how we deal with them that matters, I think. You would be a great mother, but it might not be what you are supposed to be. I think there is a bigger plan than we know, and we just have to see it through before we even understand what the plan is.”

This was her answer, one that came straight from her heart:

“I usually (97% of the time) do fine w/out kiddos. I adore Mitch and his sister and my other sister's three girls. They all have babies under 5 now and one of the girls asked us to be her babies' godparents. In case anything happens to them, we will raise Nova. I still search the DHS photolistings for kids, but sometimes it hurts my heart too bad to see the kids w/out homes.

Yes, you really do have a gift; a beautiful gift. I'm signing off for the night now.”

I called her ‘ethereal’ one time, and here’s what she said:

“Ya ain't gonna think Ethereal when ya read my latest post to your forum. Unless, that means ethereal without substance, instead of ethereal, as in heavenly. I had a little too much stress, I think. And it came out in the wash. LOL”

Her humor had no limits. She discovered that my mother’s maiden name was Adams, and for no reason other than for fun, that little fact often crept into her humor. Here’s an example:

“WONDERFUL! I LOVE your quilt display furniture. It is perfect. We must be cousins! Of course, we are all related through the Adams Family...uh...Adam and Eve, that is. LOL  Did your family tree grow from Sweden? My great gma was from Hogsby, Sweden.

I love to take pics of buildings that are falling down. Is that crazy or what? There is something behind every building, a story that I can feel. (Actually, truth be told, I make up the story myself, doesn't matter if it is true or not).

Happy New Year! May your 2009 be 2010-12-11/Sharran/69c7e7blessed and maybe 2009 will be Sharon's Year of The Book.”

She made me laugh out loud in the middle of the night.

And we talked of plans, things we could do together that might make a difference to someone. This was an idea she came up with one night not so long ago:

“I read your post on the prayer thread and you said; ‘All of us would like to turn back time, we all wish we were not alone, but we all are strong women, and with a lot of faith we move on. We all have good memories of our lost loved ones, yet we also have the strength and the determination/tenacity to keep on.'

I think this would be a great book, Sharon, strengthen women to gather the scattered parts of their hearts and create life for themselves. Sometimes broken glass becomes the best suncatchers. This would probably be a hard book to write and a hard book to read but the hope it may give, could be unbelievable.”

But I can’t do it without you, April.

And from my friend Nancy, these words:  "I didn't have a lot of contact with her on a personal level, but because I knew she was from Upstate NY, I asked her what part of the State she'd lived in. This was her reply..."

"Elmira, Horseheads, Buffalo, Corning, Bath...been there, done that. From baby to about 13, then back a few times here and there. Years ago; I'm pushing 50 in a few years.

Love the area; love the dirt we had there, love the trips to Niagara Falls. Love the fall w/ the sugar maples all glowing. Love the gentle rains that we danced in. Love the Canadian Lilacs; wow! Love the rhubarb, love the tons of apple trees, love the grapes and the oxheart cherries. So much good to mention. NY taught me to love to garden. OK taught me to not try too hard 'cause everything dies w/out tons of water in July, Aug, Sept. Hate, hate, hate, hate the winters up there. We were too poor; lived in the hills and our boots had holes in them and coats missing buttons, all that horrible stuff. Yuck. 

I wouldn't move back to stay unless God said; "go!" because of the snow effect winters we suffered through. Our house wasn't weather proof."

Thank you, Nancy, for sharing her words to you with us. I can hear her smiling as she wrote them.

She was young enough to be my daughter, yet she taught me so much about life and love and laughter. This has been one of the most difficult articles I’ve ever been asked to write, but the writing of it has made my heart smile. She could always do that for me, most often in the middle of the night.

She said that the garden in her head was much better than the one in her yard. But I think the garden she planted in our hearts is the best by far.

She did some creative writing in the Writers and Words Cubit. You can see it here.

She also wrote numerous articles filled with facts and fantasy a2010-12-11/Sharran/a59edand fun for Dave’s Garden. You can read them here.

And just for fun, April wrote a story for Cubits here

If you’d like to visit her cubits, here they are: Challenger and Computer Art.

I’ll miss her and many long nights from now I know I’ll check my computer in the wee hours and I will remember. I never heard her voice, but my heart did. 

Nancy and I would like to extend our deepest sympathy to her husband and to her entire family. We know how much she loved all of you.

Mitch, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me, and for the pictures you shared with all of us. She was an incredible young woman whose heart was heavy with all the love she carried within it. Our friendship is a treasure I’ll always hold close and her words will linger in my heart.

I will remember April, how could I ever forget that big beautiful heart! 

Related articles:
April Campbell

About Sharon Brown
I am a retired Art and Humanities teacher living in western Kentucky. I love writing and art with equal measure, but I also have a passion for nature and plants.

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
What a lovely tribute! Trish Jan 5, 2011 7:09 PM 6
A personal memory tomatofreak Dec 19, 2010 3:33 PM 1
A Lovely, Loving Person nap Dec 15, 2010 8:29 PM 36
Beautiful qualities.... weeds Dec 15, 2010 12:41 AM 1
From the Family - MitchF Dec 14, 2010 7:23 PM 2
Eternity Boopaints Dec 14, 2010 5:57 PM 2
Untitled Audrey Dec 13, 2010 11:22 AM 1
Thank you - MitchF Dec 12, 2010 9:23 AM 2

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