Perhaps it’s because I do not have a good relationship (hell, a relationship period) with any of my actual aunts, or maybe whoever coined the term “Great Aunt” just knew what they were talking about. I truly have been blessed with some pretty amazing women in my life that are my Great Aunts. Unfortunately, the best of the best live in a different state, and we did not have an opportunity to see them as often as we would have wanted. Now, with being several states away, the visits have become even fewer. Add in an uncooperative winter, and despite my best attempts, it does not appear that I will be able to visit one such Aunt prior to her passing.
My heart is more than heavy. The latest report is less than encouraging; it likely will be just a matter of days before she leaves this world. I am glad she will not suffer much longer, but the world, and my family, is losing one heck of a woman.
Aunt Betty has always been one of the most positive, most vibrant women I’ve ever known. Her laugh is adorable and infectious, not to mention quick to bubble to the surface. She is always smiling, always sweet and kind, yet not afraid to tell you how it is. Even knowing that she was dying, she has been a beacon of positivity these past months, at least in the emails we would get from her. It was utterly amazing to me. I’m not sure I would handle a diagnosis such as hers with even a fraction of such grace.
As a kid, visits to or from Aunt Betty were the absolute BEST. She was probably the original extreme couponer, except that it was not as much coupons as it was the refunders club. I think she had an “inside man” at the recycling center, and got many of her UPC labels that way. She always got the coolest free stuff, and would pass some of it along to us. I remember a slinky, and some other toys, Trix t-shirts, sunglasses, nail polish, and one time, enough shampoo to last our family a year. During the year, she would set up shop at one of the flea markets, and sell her wares too. It was so funny; it always seemed she knew exactly how she got each item too.
Another one of the quirky passions that made Aunt Betty herself was her love of, and ability to fix all kinds of baby dolls. She had at one point, and maybe still does, a room full of dolls that needed fixed, or she had fixed. She would show us her latest projects when we visited, would tell us the story behind the doll, tell us what she did to fix it, and show us the little outfits she made for them. My siblings and I, all being of the tomboy sort, did not really get into dolls, but Aunt Betty had such an almost child-like love for her dolls, it was hard not to get caught up in her stories.
She has always been so full of spunk and of life, that even though she and her husband are several years older than my grandparents, they have always seemed 10 years younger. It makes it so much harder to handle. I am not yet willing to accept the fact that my grandparents are not immortal, and if Aunt Betty is not either, well, it’s bringing a haunting fear I cannot even begin to explain, nor do I want to explore. I am told that Aunt Betty is now sleeping all the time, only getting up for meals, and that she can no longer climb the stairs. It is difficult to reconcile these reports with the feisty woman I have known and loved for all these years. While I do wish I had an opportunity to visit and say goodbye, I do know that I would not want to see her so far removed from her usual self.
Since she has been so very much in my thoughts, I wanted to take just a few minutes to share my memories, to honor her in some way, to ultimately say goodbye to my beloved Aunt. She has asked us not to mourn her, but I will. I wanted to share and celebrate her life before the grief has the opportunity to overshadow everything that she is.