Remembering my Auntie

Wednesday, February 1, 2012
The last time I saw her - our family reunion last year.
I can't believe you're gone.

I suppose that's always the case when someone passes away suddenly and without warning. The shock of the event hits the observers like a punch in the stomach, leaving us gasping, in pain, uncertain what to do in order to get our breath back.

So we cry, and in the tradition of our family, we cry together, because no one cries alone in our presence.

By most measures, you led a perfectly ordinary life. You married young, selecting your mate wisely and well the first time out of the gate (unlike most of the women in our family). You quickly had two children. You moved often, depending on your husband's military assignment. You participated in your community wherever you went. You gained your own professional skills.

But you were anything but ordinary.

No one told a story like you. The lines around your eyes and mouth were a testament to how often you laughed, and how joyfully. You lived a life of service, volunteering to help in your sons' school activities, teaching vacation bible school, visiting the old folks at the nursing home. You relished your role as a Grandma, rejoicing in each expansion to your family.

I remember how angry you were after 9/11. I couldn't understand it at first, until I thought about it. After a lifetime of your husband's deployments to the very region that spawned the terrorists, you saw the loss of life on that day as a loss to your family. And family meant everything to you.

Your faith was a cornerstone in your life. You took the lessons of your church to heart, trying to live your life generously, with compassion, and love. You were never sanctimonious about it, and you never made me feel like you loved me less because I didn't share your belief.

Do you remember when you told me that it's better to be kind than truthful? I do, and while I still struggle with that lesson, I try to remember it and follow your example.

Do you remember when I told you that I thought your kids had grown into fine men, and you told me that the credit was theirs and not yours? I do, and I apply that lesson with my own kids.

Do you remember when you won one of the prizes in my Summer Reading Program? You were so excited to have WON, and your enthusiasm reminded me that even the smallest victories can enhance our daily lives.

With your example, you taught me that people of good conscience can disagree about even the most fundamental things, but still remain partners in this life, supporting and loving one another as members of the same tribe. 

My heart is breaking for your family. Your husband, my beloved Uncle, married you when he was 19 years old. He's never really been an adult without you by his side, and I imagine how lost and alone he must be feeling. My cousins, both decent and good men, have lost their mother, and their children their Grandmother.

I don't know what happens to us when we die. Really, no one knows for sure. But I hope desperately that wherever you are, your light continues to shine, and you can experience peace in knowing that you've left this world in better shape than your found it. But I'm selfish enough to want you to have stayed in this world longer. We're a poorer place without you, and I will love and miss you, all the days of my life.

14 comments:

vince said...

I am so sorry for your loss, Janiece, but so happy that you had the relationship with your aunt that you did.

((hugs))

Stacey said...

Nicely said. I shed a tear for a life well lived and one that will be well missed. ((hugs))

Megan said...

I find it hard to respond. What a beautiful tribute to an amazing lady.

Jeri said...

What a beautiful tribute, Janiece. I feel as if I know her through your words. My sympathies to you, her immediate family, and the many friends she must have had.

Anne C. said...

(((((HUGS))))) my friend.

Jeri said...

Oh Janiece - I'm crying with you. Much love to you and your family during this time of pain and loss. I, too, hope that wherever she is, she's able to shine as she always has.

Thanks for sharing this with us.

Phiala said...

I'm very sorry for you and your family's loss. She sounds amazing.

Matt said...

Big hug to you and yours!

Carol Elaine said...

Janiece, I am so sorry. Your aunt sounds like she was an amazing woman, much like her niece. What a truly lovely tribute.

*huge hugs*

David said...

no one cries alone in our presence

As good a family motto as you will ever find.

She sounds like quite a person. I am sorry for your loss, and glad for the time you had with her.

Laur said...

Janiece, the niece, I love that you have always loved your Auntie so much. I am truely sorry for your loss.

Keep in mind that you were one of her chosen loves. The one she might have trusted her grandchildren to for a bit of Grandma's love and and reasoning. I mean that in all of the best ways.

You have been very special to your Auntie in many ways. I am sorry that she passed way before the time that you had all hoped you would have together. Loss of a love is always heartbreaking. My condolences.

kimby said...

Well said Janiece. Beautiful words for your Auntie, and those left behind. She sounds like the kind of person I would love to grow to be....thank you for sharing her with us. ((hugs)))

beatrice in Paris said...

"Courage", as the French would day.

mom in northern said...

RE: David...we do no laugh alone either. Debbie was my baby sister and I am going to hurt for a long time.

Poo'd: Good job...every word golden.