A couple weeks ago, we lost my special Auntie–Aunt Karen. Lately during my quiet drives to school, I’ve found myself thinking of her and missing her quite a lot. One morning I thought to text her a video of Baxter crawling, because she’d love it. Another morning I realized that it’s Memorial Day weekend, and for nearly every year I can ever remember, I watched the parade and ate lobster with auntie.
Both of these thoughts made me sad, and feeling a little empty. It’s hard to lose a part of your support system, and especially when the nature of those supports has grown and changed over the years. During my childhood, Aunt Karen was my second mother/cool friend/special aunt. It was exciting when she came to visit, and she came for everything! Halloween, school concerts, track meets, Sunday afternoons.
When I got a little older, she painted my nails before every school dance, took me to my first concert [Alanis Morrissette], and chaperoned my 8th grade social because I wouldn’t let my parents within a 100-foot radius. When I was in college, she’d drive to Brunswick once a month and take me out to dinner–just to have some family time, off-campus, a break from the dining hall.
In adulthood, and especially motherhood, I didn’t see her as often. But the little ways she still reached out and supported my children were immeasurable–finding the perfect “speedy” turtle outfit for Bax after his speedy entrance into the world; sending a book about special Aunts that she wanted Charlotte to have; recording a book for both Charlotte and Baxter with her voice reading the story…so that they may always know they had a great Auntie that loved them; planning a 2nd birthday train party for Charlotte when she couldn’t attend the train party at our house–and made sure that she found the best, most colorful, and most interesting train books to add to Charlotte’s shelf, knowing that she is such a little reader. And above all, always letting me know that she loved me, believed in me, and was thinking of me.
My best recent memory of Aunt K was that she was sitting right beside me (eating lobster!) at the moment I went into labor with Baxter. The contractions started slow and mild, and between each one she’d squeeze my leg, remind me to eat, or refill my water. “I don’t know if I’m REALLY in labor” I kept saying (HA!) But she seemed to know. And she quietly helped get me the things I didn’t even know I needed. A few hours later, when everyone came to the hospital, it was a crowded and overwhelming room. Aunt K took Charlotte by the hand, and they went on a quiet walk down the hallway. She just knew that Charlotte needed a quiet moment and some special attention. That was what she did best–knowing what everyone else needed, and making it happen.
I wish I could tell her that I miss her, I love her, and I always thought I’d have the chance to say goodbye. When someone is dying, you never really know when the end is coming. And I messed that one up. I had stuff I wanted to say, and things I wanted her to know. I’d been feeling pretty rotten about this, until I saw this quote shared by my Aunt Lauree (Karen’s sister). It doesn’t change the circumstances, but it does give me a little lighter heart and some peace with the reminder that we can–and should–still talk of her, laugh, and love her.
Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. call me by my old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put not difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the things that we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household name it always was. Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. Life means all it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner. All is well.
-Henry Scott Holland
I love you Auntie.