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My Wonderful Aunt

March 1, 2011

Today has been 20 years since my aunt passed away.  I can’t believe it.

Being an overanalyzer, one of the things I admired about her the most was her lack of fear.  An idea would come to her and she would do it.  No “But what if this goes wrong?  What if that happens?  What if I can’t do it?”  An idea will come to me and I will think about every little variable until I eventually talk myself out of it.  It does protect me from trouble and I know her lack of fear sometimes got her into bad situations, so I would like to find a good balance.  Even though I have been playing the piano for over 30 years, I was afraid to teach lessons.

“What if they don’t like me?”

“What if I’m not good at teaching?”

“Will it make taxes a nightmare for me?  What if I really mess up our finances?”

I had endless worries about it.  I know with the way my aunt was, she would have thought, “I’m going to teach piano and I will figure out how to make it work!”  I thought of her as I finally decided to go for it.  Better to try and fail than not try at all.  It’s one of the best decisions I have ever made.  I used to be a lot more ambitious, but I became very ill during college and was discouraged because I worked so hard to save money and had to stop going.  I wasn’t able to do my third semester of music theory and now it’s been so long, I would need to do that year all over again.  I missed so many basic things during my many trips to the bathroom to be sick.  It became so much harder to make big decisions after that.

Last year though, I learned that while my aunt was paralyzed from the waist down, she spent all day in a bathtub while she retiled a wall.  My grandma showed me a picture and I was amazed.  It also made me feel like a major wuss because there are so many things I avoid because they’re scary, uncomfortable, inconvenient, painful, and more.

When her husband (who she later divorced) wouldn’t hold down a job and appeared to be involved in illegal activities, she got a paper route.  Her van had been modified with handbrakes and after waking up her three children at 5am, they would deliver papers together.  She drove and her oldest son would run them to the door.  He was so sweet.  When the family gathered for her viewing, he was walking around the room offering comfort even though he was only 8.  When his dad got a new girlfriend, he also warned her and said his dad was bad news.  His step-mom ended up at a women’s shelter, which wasn’t surprising since he hit my aunt while she was in her wheelchair.  I had known of so many women who stayed in situations like that, but she left.

My aunt had a beautiful smile that she shared often.  She was in the hospital for probably a month before she passed away and still smiled then.  I can’t even remember any negative comments from her – just gratitude and kindness.  I found out later that she didn’t have a clue she was dying.  Someone sent her a letter and made a remark about her passing from this life to the next.  She asked, “Am I dying?”

I remember going to visit her one day and wasn’t able to sit up on her own.  I had to support her head while we transferred her from her bed to a chair and she started to cry out in pain.  I was being as gentle as I could, afraid of hurting her worse.  She said, “It hurts if you don’t lift my head.”  Then she asked me all about my boy troubles, if I was going to the prom, and who I wanted to go with.  I have known people going through much less who never stop complaining, but she had such concern for my life.

She was always so compassionate, bringing home stray dogs and cats.  Some of our relatives wonder if that’s how she ended up with her ex-husband, seeing him as a lost puppy and only recognizing the good in him.

I miss her so much and received a great gift – a copy of The Book of Mormon that she carried on her mission.  It has her favorite verses highlighted and it means so much to me.  I know someday I will hear her voice again and look into her beautiful eyes.

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