My Aunt Carolyn died today after nearly a decade lying in a hospital bed.
I confess that much of the family feels a sense of relief at her passing. It was a long and very difficult way to go. She has been essentially a vegetable for years now. I haven’t seen her in person since my wedding, more than two decades ago.
Yet it doesn’t mean that I’m not sad about it. Detached, yes. But I still feel a sense of loss. Loss for a woman who was my mother’s sister. Who was once the life of the party. Whose laugh I hear echoed in my daughter’s giggle. Whose last years of life were immeasurably sad.
I have memories of her, captured in Kodakchrome. Most of them involved childhood presents: the Mickey Mouse jewelry that now sits in my daughter’s jewelry box; the odd plaid patterned hippos that me and my sister got for Christmas one year; and plastic blow-up Easter bunnies.
Aunt Carolyn was a little crazy. She laughed a little too easily. She hugged a little too hard. She talked a little too loud. She adopted too many cats. She was just a little too much in a lot of ways. But she loved a little too much as well. She never stopped loving us. That I know. And I find comfort in that thought.
That’s what I want to remember. That I had an aunt who loved me without measure. That vibrant woman in the photos has been gone long before today. But the memory of her will live long after her body is finally put to rest.
And I suspect heaven is a much louder place tonight.