I was quite fortunate in that the great majority of my family was present at our wedding this last fall. As I sat there with my new husband looking out at our family from the altar, I felt so loved and so blessed. And as I looked to the right of where we sat I saw a single candle sitting there next to where our aunts did our readings. It was there in remembrance. Of those who couldn't be there with us, including both of my grandmothers, my paternal grandfather, T's maternal grandfather, and my Aunt Linda.
That day, I carried two handkerchiefs in my bouquet - one from each grandmother, but I also had on a very special piece of jewelry.
You can't see it very well from here, but the name Linda is written on that bracelet. I received it from my Dad's grandma shortly after my Aunt Linda passed away in 1994, and I have treasured it since. I have always known in the back of my mind I would wear it on the day I got married, and I kept it for such an occasion.
I hate to say that I'm not very close with my father's family. We have grown apart throughout the years. When I was a child, though, we did see them quite often, and the majority of that time, my siblings and I would spend with my Aunt Linda. She was the youngest of the children on that side, and she had the spirit of a child. You couldn't help but laugh when you were with her. We'd sit and watch cartoons, we would make fun of things on TV, she would laugh at the stories we wrote about our families (it was a hobby my sister and I had as a kid, we made stories up of what our families would be like when we got older.) She taught me how to needlepoint, and I would sit there for hours working on a needlepoint bookmark. I'd always mess up, and she'd have to fix whatever knot I managed to make or hole I missed. We had such fun.
We lived in Alabama, and she lived with my grandma in Indiana, so I wrote letters. I wrote letters to her and my grandma and my other aunt from that side of the family, but I do remember writing letters. All the time. I found one of the letters I wrote to my grandma recently, and I really wish I could find one of the letters I wrote her.
She died when I was just twelve years old. She was in her early thirties. It's so hard for me to think about, because I'm in my thirties. They discovered she had ovarian cancer, and by the time they discovered it, it was in stage 3. However, I was too young at the time, so my parents kept this from me until they felt I had no choice but to know. They protected me as best they could. I still remember how I found out....
One of my chores was often to clean out my desk drawers because they would always be so full of paper and just "stuff." I was cleaning my desk drawer, and I found some extra valentines cards, so I decided, since it was around that time of the year, I'd make one for my aunt to cheer her up. I had already given her one of my stuffed bears, a yellow bear she called "Mustard," so I wanted to send her something else to cheer her up. My mom came into my room, and I excitedly told her I made Aunt Linda a card, and I couldn't wait to send it to her. I can't imagine how hard this was for her, but she sat me down and said that this cancer...she wasn't going to get better from it. And she had less than a month to live. And I was crushed.
We got a call two weeks later. I will never forget that day. February 26th. She had slipped into a coma, and we were told to come quickly to say good bye. I still couldn't fathom the idea of her dying. No one I had ever loved had died. I don't remember that day very well. We walked into that hospital, and I remember seeing her there, and then I blacked out and they led me out of the room.
She passed away that night around 11:30. I knew she was gone the next morning when I woke up. I had a dream shortly after I fell asleep that night. She was in her hospital bed and she kissed me good bye. I woke up with this feeling in my heart I couldn't describe. I had never felt it before. A feeling of sadness so strong that I felt weighed down by it.
I don't remember her funeral. I remember her best friend singing Amazing Grace, and I remember crying so hard and everything went black. In my hand, I had her Valentine. I was going to give it to her when I said good bye. But when it came time to do it, I couldn't. I couldn't say the words. My Dad took the card for me and placed it in her casket for me.
As I write this post, I'm tearing up. It's been so many years and so much has changed, but the pain of it still is there. And I don't know why it's on my mind today. But it is. I miss her as much today as I did back then. But I know she was there on September 18th. She was there, watching me marry the love of my life and she was smiling. And having that piece of her with me, meant so much.
Who knows...maybe someday, when our daughter gets married, I will tell her about my Aunt Linda, and she can keep this close to heart, too.
I also have that bear, Mustard, and he, too, will be a part of my child's nursery some day.
God bless you, Aunt Linda. Love you