Woman to Women
The Legacy of Loss
Passing on the baton of aunt’s gifts
A mild, muggy heat greeted me this morning, as a reminder the beginning of summer has just begun. As much as I would like to rejoice in the coming months of parks, pools and good old-fashioned summer tans, a gloom hangs heavy overhead.
Last night my aunt, who was 90, passed away. She was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer and diabetes. We were told she had anywhere from six weeks to six months to live. She had lived a full life, raised four children, loved five grandchildren and even had time to meet and get to know her first great-granddaughter.
My tears this morning were not for the sadness of her death, but for the sadness of knowing she will not be wandering down to the lake to greet me over summer as usual. There will be no heckling over Christmas Eve appetizers and no oohing over my little cousin’s new engagement ring. Instead, as the adage goes, she will have to live in our hearts and our memories.
My body aches not only for my loss but for the gradual and what feels like continual loss of a generation that defined my family. The passing of the baton has just occurred. My uncle, his sisters and his brother will have to carry on the torch. I sit anxious and even scared at the next passing. What will happen when it is one of my grandmothers? How will my parents handle their new role? How will I handle knowing that I am responsible for keeping these people I love and hold most dear to me alive? I will have to draw pictures with words so my kids understand the lakehome that they visit over the summer was built by their loving great aunt. I will have to try to make them understand how special they are and how lucky they are to have the bloodlines of those who came before them.
I guess I must take the awkward and painful step forward and accept the passing of the baton myself, without hesitation. My siblings, cousins and I are the up-and-coming new middle age, raising the new next generation of our family. I am hoping and praying that I provide our children with the rich history my parents gave me. I will fight to make sure they understand that our family is special. We stick together, love together and create a history together.
To me, my aunt didn’t die last night; she moved on to the next phase. I am now ready for the responsibility for carrying her memories and keeping her alive, just as she did for the family who came before me.
This is dedicated to the loving memory of my aunt Louise 6/20/2008.