The Shelter of Youth

As a child, I was protected from witnessing grave illness. When my great grandmother Barbara passed away, all the kids gathered in the basement of the funeral home. Several years later my grandpa passed away and I spent some time at the wake before being ushered to my aunt’s house with my cousins.

My eldest aunt joined my Grandma Barbara and grandpa today.

She became very sick very quickly. She fought the infections this last week, but was unable to win this battle as she had won so many for the duration of her life.

Her life was never easy, but I never heard her complain. Growing up, my sister and I never spent that much time with my aunt Joan. Joan is the oldest of eight. She was always at family functions for holidays. For Christmas she would always get everyone a gift and be extremely excited to see your reaction to it. She instructed you to show it to everyone after opening it. One of the Christmases after I got into Northwestern, she and her husband got me an NU Tshirt. In my childhood ignorance, I never understood her excitement over the gifts she gave. I knew she didn’t make a lot of money, but I would compare the gift to what I received from my other relatives and try to show the same excitement for what she gave.

Reflecting on her life, there were many gifts she blessed me with and I’m sure the many lives she touched working in a daycare. When one of my cousin Crystal’s twins were crying at their christening, my Aunt Joan held one of them and they stopped crying. The greatest gift is that of acceptance.

Today, I try to remember my aunt not at her weakest in the ICU, but for her insurmountable joy at Christmas.

Rest in peace and say hi to grandpa for me.