Sunday, August 31, 2014

Because of Her...

People come into our lives in many ways, but always for us to learn something about ourselves, if we're open to it. They may come into our lives for a moment, a day or a season or they may stay for a lifetime.
My aunt, age 12; me, 4 1/2 months

It's often harder for us to learn something about ourselves when that person is a family member, however close the relationship, either generational or in age. Or the geography. We often take a familial relationship for granted as we may see or communicate with that person often.

It's also when we lose something, we realize we never truly appreciated what we had.

I lost my aunt this month. It was sudden, unexpected, and therefore came as quite a shock. What made it even harder to accept is that she was 68 years young.

I was born into her life barely a month after she turned twelve, the first child born among my mother and her siblings.

In addition to lessons, a passing also brings memories and stories to mind. My family tells the story about one time she came over to spend time with her sister and me. We were living in the San Francisco Bay area at the time and I was six months old, if I remember the story correctly, which would set this story in August. My aunt was feeding me, and when I was finished, she did what you do to a baby you've just fed. And I did what many babies do when you burp them. All over her white blouse.

I don't think we've ever looked at strained beets the same way again.

Upon reflecting on our relationship, I realize I've learned a lot from my aunt. Whenever I saw her, she was always smiling, always cheerful, no matter what was going on in her life. I spoke with her by phone a week before she passed. I could hear her in her voice-she was herself; cheerful, in good spirits, optimistic about her life, maintaining a positive attitude.

Because of her, I will take this lesson forward.

Because of her, I learned that coffee is good any time of day, any time of the year as she always had a pot of coffee ready. 
Christmas 1959

Because of her, I've learned to be there for people. When I came out to my parents, my mother cried it was all her fault but told me she still loved me, while my stepfather promised not to disinherit me, he tried to forbid my mother to have anything to do with me. My mom turned to her baby sister for comfort who, in turn, was stunned at my stepfather's rejection, "How could you just stop loving someone like that?"

My aunt was there not only for her sister, but for me as well.

When I married my now ex-husband, I didn't want a large, lavish ceremony for a couple of reasons. The first one was budget, the second was that I hate being in the center of it all, and the third one was I only wanted those people who supported the idea of same-sex marriage. I knew people who pledged full support for the LGBT community, yet drew the line at same-sex marriage. And sometimes it's better to not ruffle any feathers if things are already smooth. I shared my engagement with my mom, so she could share in my happiness. Soon after, I received an email from my aunt with only three words, "When's the wedding?"
ca. 1987

Not only did she and her husband come down for the wedding, they helped decorate the venue and pitched in wherever we needed it. 

Whenever we talked, or visited, she always inquired about my partner, even before we were legally married, and was there for me when he walked out not even two years later.

I never got to tell her directly how much her support meant, partly because I didn't realize it at that time. She was one of the strongest allies I never realized I had. Because of her, I have learned not to sell people short; give people a chance and they may surprise you.

RIP, Karen. Although, you may not be physically on this plane any more, your love and spirit always will be.