She was the eldest of 3 siblings of which my father was the youngest. I was born on her 42nd birthday and we shared 45 of them with greetings and good wishes. I will quietly wish her happy birthday this November in my thoughts. She passed away two days ago on June 1st.
Life was not always kind to her, but she dealt with it and moved on. She never let tragedy keep her down. She reveled in interacting with people and counted each person she shared a laugh with as a blessing. She was always ready to share a laugh with someone and her wit was quick, down-to-earth and sometimes unexpected. She loved deeply, but held her boundaries when needed. She married 3 times, the first at age 16. She bore a son from that marriage who died when he was 3 months old… or 2 years old, the notes my other aunt gave me say one thing, but I believe she told me 2 years old. My experience tells me that the age her child was when he died didn’t matter, loss is loss. Despite that loss, she loved children and loved me unconditionally. I never sensed any grief from her when she spent time with me, as a child or an adult, only joy. She understood that joy is a greater gift than holding onto sadness or grief.
Her first husband ended up being crazy and abusive. Her second husband lost his life in a tractor accident. She married a third time in her 50’s and he was her companion until she passed away.
Not given to long speeches, She always put things in perspective with an appropriately placed one-liner. For example, when I had gone through my divorce, I visited my aunts. I shared with them some of the things I was going through with my ex. She commiserated with me, validated my feelings and then gave me hope (along with a laugh) by telling me, “One day he will just be an asshole you once knew.” It was delivered with such perfect timing and in a tone of voice that I felt like a goal for my life had just been set, and when I finally reached the day that I forgot when his birthday was or what date we had gotten married, when those were just any other day, I wanted to tell her in person, “I’m there!!” I guess maybe she already knows.
She loved girly things — makeup, pretty clothes. She was a cosmetologist and a beautician, and I remember loving that, because she was always up for “playing” with clothes, makeup, hair and dolls. She loved Christmas and decorated her home to the gills for it. But that wasn’t enough, no, because until recent years, she would fly to Iowa to help her sister (who also loves Christmas) decorate her house, too. In her later years, until her health declined, she genuinely enjoyed her job working the night shift at Circle K. I suspect her enjoyment of it was because it allowed her to have friendships with her customers, just as when she worked in a beauty salon. She loved people and she loved stories.
She survived adult onset diabetes, as well as lung cancer and was even tickled to show me her scars from having a lung removed in July of 2007. She didn’t even let needing an oxygen tank stop her from traveling to visit her sister until recently. Last month (May of 2016), she was hospitalized due to severe pain, but was released the following week under hospice care with an inoperable cancerous tumor in her kidney. They thought she had a few more weeks, but she didn’t.
I’m not certain what will happen now. North Carolina, where she lived, is quite a distance from me. I hate that budgetary concerns may dictate my desire to be there and offer love and support to her husband (my uncle) as well as my sole remaining paternal aunt. I’m not a huge fan of funerals, I don’t really know anyone who is, but the process of laying someone to rest amidst those who loved them offers closure to those who are left behind.
I will miss her.