"Aunts are special people.
Aunts have a comfy way about them-
Aunts love to chat. Aunts make you feel important.
Aunts advise a little and listen a lot.
Aunts are kind of like a friend and a second Mom, all in one.
Aunts splurge for little extras.
Aunts tell the most amusing long-ago stories.
Aunts are part of your fondest memories of growing up and of good times."
From an American Greetings card
My earliest memory of Letty is when I was maybe 9-ish. We were at my grandparent's camp in Vermont. Think On Golden Pond. Letty suggested we go skinny dipping. When she explained skinny dipping, I felt both shocked and fascinated. Really? Swim naked? I don't know that it ever happened, but from that day on Letty was my brave, adventurous, ideal woman. She lived in New York City. Wore high heels to work. She walked everywhere, didn't drive. She took me to the New York World's fair (which strangely I have no memory of - how can you not remember a world's fair?) and Radio City Music Hall where we watched the Rockettes dance. She was perhaps the first to call me Merry Mary. She encouraged my writing. She always made me feel important.
Instead of feeling like I'd crossed a new threshold of life without my dad and come to the know the truth that grief doesn't last forever, I felt sad all day yesterday. Sad for me. Sad for my sister who had missed an opportunity to visit Aunt Letty. Sad for Uncle David, the last remaining Aldrich of that generation. Mostly I feel sad for Aunt Letty's husband, son and daughter. All of whom I've only met once. I can't know how others will feel or react to such a sudden death (Letty had been very ill, but the hope was that some treatments were going to keep her alive and feeling better for a long period of time). Because Letty's death was eerily similar to my mom's I have an idea of the shock they are in right now.
My mom had suffered some brain damage from a stroke like illness. She was frail, tired, ready to go. I guess everyone either lived in a cloud of denial or didn't expect her passing to be as blessedly fast as it was. We were not prepared for an aneurysm. Like my cousins, I sent my father home and stayed with mom through the night as she slowly stopped breathing. It still feels a bit surreal. I'd like to have a do over so I could take better notes, say more meaningful things, hold her hand for a longer period of time. I'm glad Aunt Letty's kids were with her when she crossed over. I'm very sad for their loss. I have a feeling her husband will take it pretty hard.
Back when Mel first told me about her mom's cancer, she asked how she was going to deal with it. She has a 5 year old son, a 2 month old daughter, a husband, job and lives across the country from where her mom lived. Having lived through caring for my parents the only advice I could give was, you will know what to do when you have to do it. From what I've heard, she did everything right. By that I mean, if what you do at a time like that is put love above all else, then it's right no matter what the outcome.
I figure in the days ahead, I'll find the time and words to write that letter to my father. To myself. Right now, I'm reminded that grief is an ongoing experience. The searing pain one feels in the beginning, softens to a dull, manageable reminder of loss, like that phantom pain some people get when a limb has been amputated. Like it's still there, only it isn't. That's how my heart feels every time someone I love dies. Like another piece of it has been amputated.
Today I'm trying to figure out how to live in a world without my Aunt Letty in it. I rarely saw her. In the last year or so she hasn't felt well enough to write. But I knew she read my blog. I knew she loved me. Awful as it might sound, I'm glad she's not in any more pain. I like to think my mom was at the gates of heaven to welcome Letty home. I can see them now sitting at a table, talking into the wee hours of the morning. The way I hope someday my sisters and I will do again, on this side of the grave.
This blog's for you, Aunt Letty. Thank you for all you did to make my world a better place.
If there's someone you haven't seen or heard from in awhile. Pick up the phone, or write them a letter, or send them a text. Tell them how much they mean to you. None of us knows when we'll be called home. Make sure you say I love you at least once a day.