Thoughts on a life
We’ll be attending a memorial service this evening for my Aunt Bea. She died earlier this week of lung cancer that had spread to her liver before she was even diagnosed. It’s been an uncomfortable last few months for her, but a time she focused on her family.
Bea’s remaining sisters and a sister-in-law had brief visits, as she was able and as she requested. I’m guessing that few others of our large extended family saw her in those last months. I sent my love in a pretty card, letting her know I was thinking of her.
When Mom talked about her over the past weeks and monthts, she’d declare, “I’m going to miss her so much.”
Auntie Bea, we’ll all miss you.
My aunt lived in Toronto for many years before coming back closer to home. I remember a train ride to the big city with my sister. Mom and Dad had taken us to the station early in the morning, paid our fare and waved good-bye. Bea and her husband met us at the Toronto station and took us to their apartment—a high rise. We could look out the balcony window and see across the tops of buildings, one of them Weston Bakery. On that mini-vacation, we went to the Exhibition, a rare opportunity for my sister and me. The Ex with all its activity and crowds, its hawkers and food booths, made our home-town fair seem like a miniature replica. The thing I remember most about that outing were not the rides but the sombreros we brought home, our named embroidered on the crown in the same turquoise as those pompoms dangling from the wide brim. Bea and her husband took us back to the station and waved good-bye. She took good care of us, and we had a good time.
A later time, Auntie Bea came for a visit to our home; she took my sister and I to see Doctor Zhivago at the theatre. The movie was sad and the scenes and images stayed with me a long time, but I also remember that day as a time spent with my aunt. We were building a relationship.
My friend Linda and I, with the blessing of our parents, planned a vacation in Florida. I had just graduated from college and Linda had another year at university. We were flying to Florida to stay with my grandfather, go sightseeing and also visit her great aunt and uncle. Mom and Dad took us to the airport that morning and waited while we checked our luggage. We were flying standby, and found that we could not get away that day, yet our suitcases went on ahead. Since summer is a busy time on the farm, my parents could not come back again the next day, so Mom called up Aunt Bea and asked if we could stay the night, and if she could drive us to the airport the next day. That was fine, my aunt said. We stopped and bought toothbrushes and then headed for my aunt’s apartment, where we stayed overnight anticipating the flight the next day. Auntie Bea got us to the airport in plenty of time.
I loved Auntie Bea, for treating us like she wanted to be treated, for her wry humour and for being herself. Life had not always been easy for her, yet she attended family gatherings, after an absence of years, and reconnected with her siblings and parents. What I admire most is the way she has reconnected with her children from her first marriage, loved them, along with her adopted children, kept in touch with them over the years, and made time for all her children in those last months. That’s love.
So Auntie Bea, you’ve asked for donations instead of flowers. As I say good-bye today, know that I have appreciated and loved you, and I’ll miss you. These words are my gift to you.