I am sitting in front of a turquoise sea as the sun rises. The day is waking, birds are singing, the breeze is filtering through me, my coffee is perfect. And I am crying. It is amazing how our senses and our emotions can house many possibilities at the same time. I suppose I am crying for death, for loss and for beauty all at once. Yesterday, my dear Aunt Rose died. The last of my mother’s siblings and really, a second mom to me all my life. She was also my godmother, and while I never bent to many of those kinds of traditions, my aunt Rose surely did. For this reason, I know I was special to her. But then again, she never treated any of her nieces and nephews less than special. We were all important to her and she made sure that we knew it. We knew it because she showed it in countless ways. She was supportive. She took the time. She remembered things.
Queen of the greeting card, she never once missed a birthday, for example. Not only that, she also honored such minor holidays as Halloween and even St. Patrick’s Day with the appropriate ’Hallmark’. Organized to a “T," I was in awe of how she kept track of it all. She had an exacting way of doing things and it upset her when something didn’t go according to plan. I once watched her with her checkbook in hand, completely exasperated because there was one or two cents out of balance. No amount of my trying to convince her it didn’t matter would sway her determination to find the error. This determination extended to all areas of her life.
Her devotion to her faith was reknown in the family, attending church daily throughout her life. For those of us less devout though, she never questioned, preached or tried to convert us which I, for one, was grateful for. Nevertheless, whenever she visited me, there was always something comforting about seeing her up before the sun, sitting in the dark with her little prayer book and rosary beads, I knew she was praying for us all.
For a tiny person, she had a formidable presence and strength. Her ‘take charge’ attitude was as legendary as her Easter pastich pie and arguing with her wouldn’t get you very far. Her strength though was based in her considerable love and generousity, She could always be counted on to administer help and care to the sick or needy with cassoroles in tow. She did this for family as in helping to care for my mother during her numerous illnesses, or staying with me for a week after my son Ryder was born. But she also extended this care outside of the family,to “old people” (as she jokingly put it to me) later in life at a senior center near her home. These things made her feel vital and needed. For as long as she could manage it, she took pride in and valued her independence and ability to help and I rarely knew her to be idle.
She might have been surprised to know that she gave me an important life lesson when I was little that to this day I pull out of my pocket whenever I need it. One Easter while still living in Roxborough, she had the dinner table set to perfection. There was a little gift for each of us on our plates. For me she had chosen one of those kitschy wooden plaques depicitng a pouty, big-eyed child with the caption “Accept Things” How did she know even then that I would grow up needing this reminder? I think she recognized my stubborn self at a young age and tried to subtly help me understand how this little phrase might help me with some of life’s heartaches. It did. And it does, and I wish I had let her know that.
My Uncle Bill, who I adored, sometimes teasingly referred to Rose and my mom, Chachi as “The Bobbsey Twins." I always thought this humorous of course, because to my mind, their personalities were very different- Rose, creative and crafty with her early painting and crocheted creations, and my mother more athletic and sports oriented. But they relied on each other as sisters do, and I was always grateful for Rose’s presence in my mother’s life. As in life, so in death. Dying on the same day 3 years apart seemed fitting and poetic somehow. They both believed in a heaven non-existent for me, but I like to think with Rose’s passing that my two moms have found that prayed for place together in whatever form their shared goodness had imagined.
San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico