Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Good Lady, Gone

Today I am driving myself and my mother to the far southern reaches of our state to attend a wake for my great aunt (my mother's aunt) Virginia.

Every family should have an Aunt Virg. The woman had a zest for life, a love of people and made everyone feel special. My Aunt Virg had sparkling eyes. Enthusiasm and love radiated from her.

Most of my memories of my Aunt Virg are from my childhood.

My grandfather, his sister Virginia, and his brother Bill bought adjoining lake property up in the Great North Woods. Each built a cottage for their families to gather. Aunt Virg and Uncle Vic's cottage was just a stone's throw away.

My sister Stephanie and I would walk over to their cottage and she would seat us on kitchen stools and feed us salami cut into little bite-sized pieces, followed by vanilla ice cream for dessert. I have memories of her dancing, clapping and playing her harmonica.

Vic and Virg had 5 children. She loved them all unconditionally. She and my Uncle Vic raised those 5 children in a small ranch house with 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom. My mother has many memories of going into their home, and finding my aunt on her couch, a cigarette in one hand, glass of wine in the other, listening to loud opera music. "Just a minute, Nanc," she would say, before my mom would go off to find a cousin, "you have to listen to this part."

Her 5 children took all different paths in life. They are all wonderful, good people who live life and tell it like it is. There is very little pretention among any of them, if at all. Virginia accepted all of her children unconditionally, no matter their life's path.

When my mother was having trouble with my younger brother, Aunt Virg emphatically told her, "He is your son, Nanc. You love him. You do not turn your back on him, no matter what people are telling you." Aunt Virg recognized that sometimes people do stupid things. But that didn't mean that the person was worthless. Everyone was valued and loved by her. If she ever judged anyone, she kept it inside and certainly did not let the judgment pass her lips.

My Aunt Virg lived life until the very end. When she needed extra care and went to live in an assisted living facility, she did not let her circumstances dampen her outlook on life. She loved to talk and visit with others. On her neighbor's birthdays, she would play her harmonica and sing Happy Birthday to them.

I feel so honored to be taking my mom to Aunt Virg's wake. My mom adores her 5 cousins, and it is so rare an occassion when they are all able to get together. To be able to do so, to be able to watch her reunite and enjoy herself, is a privelege for me.

And while today will be sad, it will also be impossible not to celebrate this amazing woman's life. The stories will be wonderful and funny, warm and plentiful.

Sometimes a person dies, and you have to search for something nice to say about them. Not Aunt Virg. We were all so lucky to have had this woman in our family. And she certainly would not want us to waste time mourning her loss.

Life is too short, she would say, her eyes sparkling.

In a time of my life where I often feel frustrated, or tempted to put my life on hold while we are enduring this wait, my Great Aunt Virginia is an excellent example.

Life is for living.
For harmonica playing.
For singing and dancing.
For sitting on a couch with a glass of wine in one hand,
listening to opera.

I can only hope that when I pass away, my children and grandchildren are able to talk about the light in my eyes. That they are able to say that I inspired them to live life to the fullest.

Thank you, Aunt Virg,
for the inspiration you have given
your entire family,
both close and far.
You blessed us so.


bbbunch said...

Dear Sarah,

I am so sorry for your loss. She sounds like a wonderful woman...but somehow, coming from your family, I am not surprised! I hope you and your mom have a safe trip, and that you enjoy yourselves celebrating what sounds like a remarkable woman!


Anonymous said...

Very nice post. I wish I had met your aunt and I am happy that you are able to go and pay respect to this admirable woman.