These were a gift, long ago, from my beloved aunt who is no longer with us. While her story is not mine to tell (she has three sons to do that for her) my experiences with her are.
In reality, I have not been able to really talk about her since she passed away. I am not great with death, especially when it comes to verbalizing about it. I fear others think me cold-hearted but in reality I clam up, not knowing what to say, what will be comforting and what would not, which is certainly not the experience I want for someone who has just lost a loved one.
After three years it still feels raw and painful. Her last few weeks were not good and, due to circumstances out of my control, I was unable to be with her at the end. My last conversation with her happened over the phone, her sedated and me in the first trimester pain and fog that has come with both of my pregnancies. Not the way I had hope to say goodbye. She had travelled two hours to attend PJ’s second birthday party a few weeks before (apparently in more pain than we were aware of) and ended up in the hospital a couple of days later. There is a crazy mixture of guilt, pain and regret that boils up every time I think of her.
She is a part of many of my childhood memories. A fun and funny person, I would spend many weekends, sometimes whole weeks, at her and my uncle’s house from the time I was little until a few months before she died.
She was like a third grandmother to PJ.
When Kevin started showing up at her house with me for visits, she treated him like a nephew right away; from day one he was the proud recipient of her love and her signature sass. I remember her sending me an email right before he and I got married telling me how much she loved me, and him, and how she felt like I was entering a wonderful time in my life because I had found my soulmate and that together, she knew, he and I could do anything we put our mind to, simply because we had each other.
I am sad that she is not here to see the farm.
She was there through my entire pregnancy with PJ and held him before he was even two days old. For years we would trade off, my family (and usually my mom) traveling to her house to spend a weekend and her traveling to my parents house for a few days. Our times together were always filled with laughter, food, and fun. At my parents house we would eat dinner, and when Kevin would show up after work, we would play Trivial Pursuit, PJ sleeping nearby in his baby swing, us laughing and exchanging lighthearted jabs as the game wound late into the night.
She shaped so much of who I am, possibly because of the shear amount of time I spent with her, more likely because of how much I loved her.
I hope as more time passes I will be able to talk about her without tears. Every time there is a party or family get-together I am still caught off-guard when I realize she won’t be there. She was a huge personality, with an even bigger heart, and both are quite evident by the size of the hole she has left behind in all of our lives.
Six months after she passed away I gave birth to Shaelyn. After she was born we all laid down in bed to get our first rest in 24 hours. It was early morning and the light was streaming in the little windows of our bedroom as I began to doze with my new baby girl in my arms. The next thing I remember is waking up to someone sitting at the foot of the bed, rubbing my leg and softly saying my name. I woke up, my eyes trying hard to adjust to the early spring light. There, at the end of the bed, sat my aunt rubbing my leg and smiling. Kevin was sound asleep next to me as she said “Laura, she’s beautiful! You did such a good job!” As I reached out to touch her hand I startled awake. The room was exactly the same, Kevin was still asleep beside me, we were still bathed in all that light and Shaelyn was laying in my arms, smiling in her sleep. The only thing different was my aunt wasn’t there. It took a moment for my brain to catch-up and realize that I had only been dreaming. It all felt so real and recalling it today feels more like remembering a memory as opposed to a dream.
I wish it had been more than a dream.
It’s the same way every time I look at the angels. I swear she’s standing right next to me, having come to visit us at the farm to celebrate the holidays. Each time I reach out to grab that feeling, each time all that is left is the light.