Today is my Auntie Joan’s birthday, she would have been 73 years old – but she died, last October.
She was healthy, beautiful and happy; enjoying her part time work and semi retirement spent with husband and family. The week before she passed she was having fun on a vacation in New England.
And then she got sick and within 48 hours, she was just gone.
I only saw her a few times a year, so part of my brain is still expecting to see her soon. It thinks that she must still be here, somewhere, just as she’s always been. The women in my family tend to live a very long time, usually into their 90’s, and particularly since there was nothing serious wrong with her it’s almost impossible to believe that she won’t be around soon for a visit.
I know that God is in control and knows what He is doing, I know that she fled to His arms and those of her mother, father and grandmother who’ve gone ahead – but it’s still so very difficult to accept. My mind keeps stubbornly insisting that she was supposed to be here, with us, for a long time to come. It’s so hard not to feel angry.
Auntie won a full scholarship to college in her youth, married, had three sons and then survived a difficult divorce in her 30’s and a benign brain tumor in her 40’s. She fell in love and remarried happily in her 50’s.
She loved cats and dogs, babies and Angels, bears and Marilyn Monroe. She loved her boys and all the grandchildren they gave her. She loved my mom. And she loved music.
My family is incredibly musical on both sides; Auntie sang and played the piano. I can clearly remember her sitting straight and graceful at the keys, her blue eyes fixed on the music she was sight reading while she played during church in the summer when the big pipe organ wasn’t in use. My great grandmother, grandmother, mother, sister and Aunt all have the exact same faded denim colored blue eyes.
I am almost certain that in her lifetime my Aunt never really appreciated all that she was. I also know that I should have tried harder to tell her, but suspect that she wouldn’t have believed me if I did.
My mother and Aunt are both modest and graceful Englishwomen despite having been born here in America. They taught me how to be a woman of character in times when it’s often considered more favorable to be crude. They also know how to laugh, particularly when together.
Ironically, another thing my Aunt taught me now is to let people take my picture. She did this by dodging photographs whenever possible. Despite being a lovely, blue eyed blonde she could never see her own beauty and perpetually sought to avoid being captured on film.
The truth is that someday someone may want, or even desperately need a photograph of me. They won’t care if it’s framed perfectly and my face and hair are precisely done the best way possible. They’ll just want to remember what I looked like on a lazy Saturday morning when I was happy. Even without makeup, even with flat hair. Photographs aren’t really for us; they’re just little encapsulated moments of time that people try to hold onto as it goes slipping inexorably past. We leave them behind for others when we are gone.
I know that Auntie read this blog. She could never figure out how to leave a comment, but she would tell my mother that she was reading, and that she was proud of me.
Auntie, if you’re still reading, we all miss you so much – Happy Birthday.