My aunt passed away late Saturday night.
Her memorial service starts in one minute. I wish I could be there but I can't because Utah is two-thousand miles from me. So I thought the best way to spend this time—while others are memorializing her—is to do the same.
Karen is my mom's younger sister. She is survived by her husband, her one-hundred-year old mother, both of her sisters, three daughters, one son and many grandchildren. There are probably a lot of wonderful things being said about her right now. But I only know, what I know.
When I was little I was scared to eat at her house because if you complained about the food, you got a second helping. Genius.
When I was an unsure, gangly teenager who didn't like herself (I'm sure my parent's didn't like me and I don't blame them looking back) she told me I was normal and okay. She will never know how far that carried me. It still carries me.
Once when I was five, I went to church with her. She did a demonstration for all us primary kids. She held up a flower in a pot and asked if anyone would be willing to eat some of the potting soil. I loved my aunt but no way was I eating dirt for her. Some other kid didn't mind though. He jumped right up and took a spoonful and darn it if that potting soil wasn't just crushed up Oreo's. Her lesson was on faith. I was ashamed that I didn't have enough faith in my own aunt; how was I going to have faith in Heavenly Father? I thought about that for years.
She glared me down when Jason (her son) and I belly-laughed at Thanksgiving dinner because an elderly guest passed gas at the table. I mean, it was hilarious and she didn't even flinch. Told us we should be ashamed of ourselves. And we were, a little. Okay, not really. But I'm still in awe that she didn't crack a smile.
Once I answered the phone at her house and didn't give her the message. Two weeks later she gently but seriously let me know that I'd cost her a case (she was a court reporter) which meant I'd cost her money and she was the breadwinner for her family at the time. I felt guilty for months. But I never, ever did that again.
When my husband was in college and a full-time professional firefighter, she let us sleepover at her house every Wednesday night. One morning when I woke up, and he was at class, Auntie Karen came and found me. She said she had two slices of apple pie left and that we should go eat them with a chunk of melty cheddar cheese on top. I thought she was crazy, but I didn't tell her that. I just humored her. Warm apple pie with cheddar cheese is amazing, people!
She gave birth to and raised four of my favorite people. I love each one of those people as much as I love her. That's one reason I'm going to miss her so much. She is part of them and part of my relationship with them, but she's no longer here. I'm still wrapping my brain around it.
She had a great laugh. She always had her glasses on the end of her nose, or hanging from a chain around her neck. She had the patience of a saint and had six teenagers living in her house at one time. I got my love of earrings from her.
But most of all, she was the kind of person you wanted to be around. Whenever I knew she was coming to visit or we were going to see her, I was excited. She always made me laugh, made me feel beautiful and just flat out loved me. And I loved her too.
I love her too. And I always will.
She was too young to go. Yes, she was seventy-five, but she was a young seventy-five. But cancer doesn't care about age, gender or how amazing you are. It doesn't care who it takes. Selfish beast .
Here's one thing that sums up exactly who she was. Her mother's one-hundredth birthday was this past weekend. Everyone had plane tickets and hotel rooms, catered food was ordered and flowers bought. It was huge. Karen was supposed to be there. But she was dying instead. Literally on her death bed.
She should've passed a week before. She was in terrible pain and her body was done. The cancer was eating her up but she wouldn't let go. I told Etta (her daughter) that I thought she was holding on so that Grandma could have her special, happy day. Late Saturday, Etta, went in her room, sat by her comatose body, held her hand and told her mom that Grandma had a wonderful party and that she loved the quilt that she and her two sisters had made.
An hour or so later Auntie Karen slipped away.
She held out all that extra time so her mother could have her special day.
Even in her dying, she was an example to me.
Until we meet again, Auntie Karen.