A little over a month ago, I got a call from my Aunt Erlene saying that my Aunt Billie's fight with cancer wasn't going well. New tumors had been found in a different organ and she was too weak for additional treatment.
It was terrible news, but my Aunt Billie was making the most of it. In fact, she decided to do something she'd always wanted to do - jump out of an airplane. Several of my family members - and yours truly - were going to join her in this celebration of life.
The week we were scheduled to jump, my aunt took a turn for the worse. Hospice was brought in that weekend and last night, my aunt lost her battle.
My aunt had one of the most unique accents I've ever heard. (All of my dad's sisters have awesome accents.) You could bet that for days after a visit with her when I was younger, I'd be adding a's to the ends of my words. I never mastered it, but I would be lying if I said I hadn't tried again over the past few weeks.
My dad's side of the family was never very close, but I have wonderful memories of my aunt - and her house. I recently wrote her a letter and told her about the things I wanted my son to know about her when he got older and several of them ended up being about her old house - the huge pine tree in the front yard that I used to play under, the smell of the soap in her bathroom, sitting on her porch or the stairs leading to the second floor of the house. She's probably the reason I always wanted a porch swing. And the reason I never wanted a small dog.
From now on, whenever I smell rose soap or see a huge, I mean gigantic, pine tree, or hold the blanket she made for BB when he was born, I'll hear her voice and feel her powerful hugs and know that she's in a better place. And I won't regret my decision not to see her this past month.
Last November, my aunt and I had a moment at the end of a wonderful family gathering. I think she and I both knew at that moment that we probably wouldn't see each other again in this world. I've never felt a stronger connection with a person than I did in the moment when she told me she loved me. I want to remember her from that day. Still my aunt, with only a few cracks showing. I wasn't strong enough to see her after those cracks grew, and I hope she understands that. This summer, when we jump in her memory, I hope she's there with us, using her new wings to fly in place of the parachute she hoped to use before she went home.