Tribute to the Last Aunt
With the passing of every aunt, the spotlight shines on another empty seat in our theater.
From our performance stage, we scan the audience for a look of approval (or rebuke), for a thumbs up (or down) from a familiar face. When it registers that the smile (or frown) of our late aunt is missing, we quickly shift our gaze in the direction of another chair occupied by another aunt. We seem to expect that one will always be there.
Then the last aunt leaves (like mine did recently), and we can only look toward the memories of love and support.
My first memory of my aunt was the knowledge that she was “away,” (Caribbean reference for a foreign land). Our distant connection was kept alive by the dresses, shoes, purses and other gift items I received occasionally.
The memory of our first meeting is not as vivid as the memory of our first parting. I was seven or eight years old. My mother dressed me in a yellow taffeta dress to accompany her to the airport on her return to the foreign land, and I carried a bouquet of locally made flowers to present to her. My aunt made me feel that no one ever made her feel so special.
She continued to send gifts, and one which was quite meaningful was the one she sent for my first day at work. What a boost it was to my youthful sense of significance, to have a long-strap shoulder bag like all the other young female teachers had. My aunt had made an outstanding contribution to my career debut.
Fashionable Back in the Day
For my first vacation, I went "away" to the Virgin Islands to spend a few weeks of the summer break with my beloved aunt and her children. Then and there, I discovered what she was really like—hard working, humorous, unselfish, generous and godly.
Somewhere in my forties, our closeness erased the twenty-year age difference between my aunt and me. Our relationship seemed more like a friendship among peers. I still called her aunt and she still referred to me as her niece, but we talked like girlfriends about life past and present, about men and morals, about children and celebrations, about faith and the future. The older we grew, the better friends we became.
She introduced me to the Eleanor Roosevelt quote comparing a woman and a tea bag. It was her contribution to a newsletter I published for women; and in our later conversations I discovered how true that statement was in her life. She shared her stories about her personal struggles and setbacks. She credited her strength and her survival to her faith in God, and His favor in her life.
A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong it is until it's in hot water.— Eleanor Roosevelt
She survived her sister and three brothers, including my father. She also survived my two maternal aunts and two uncles. Now that she has passed on, certain concerns stare me in the face:
- For me, there can never be another aunt, let alone an aunt who doubles as a friend.
- No one else has firsthand information about my grandparents, uncles and aunts;
- I am obligated to share what I know and what I heard to members of the next generation;
- It is appropriate that I offer the same intimate support she offered me, to at least one younger female in the family.
On Her 80th Birthday Cruise
For her 80th birthday my aunt wanted a family cruise. Quite a tall order, but her children helped make it possible, and thanks to them and to her, they took me with them and their children on an Eastern Caribbean cruise.
For an entire week we talked, laughed and ate together. It was my greatest experience of family. The photographs from that event are most important now, as they remind me over and over of the quality time we spent together.
We knew that our aunt was the eldest member of the family, but during a conversation on that trip we realized that yours truly was second runner-up on the list. With my aunt’s passing, I am now the second oldest among my father’s family members. My new position breeds serious thoughts about my family contribution and legacy. For hope and inspiration, I recall some memories of my late aunt.
In September 2013, I was privileged to spend a few days with my aunt. She convinced me that we had agreed upon my visit; but the truth is that of her own volition, she had programmed it in her mind, and reminded me often that it had to happen. I felt obligated to honor her schedule, and it turned out to be our last visit.
She was suffering some of the physical and mental limitations which come with life after 80, but they did not prevent her from making me laugh and enjoying her company.
One day when I leaving to spend some time with a friend, she slapped some money into my palm, saying, “Take this with you, in case you get hungry.”
On my way out the door, she shouted, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
Those two statements aptly summarize her involvement in my life. She anticipated and provided for my needs whenever she thought it necessary, and she was never shy about her desire for me to walk in the straight and narrow path throughout my early as well as my later years.
I shall miss my friend, my mentor and my aunt.
Once every week, at the time when I would have called her, I intend to spend some time speaking with or praying for a younger member of my family, in respect and gratitude for the legacy of my last aunt.
May the soul of my last aunt rest in peace!
In Honor of the Last Aunt
Which of the following do you think is a good way to show appreciation for the life of your late aunt?
© 2015 Dora Weithers