Monday, March 30, 2009

Aunt Jimmie

This weekend I blogged about the people in my life who show up. I made brief mention of my aunt and uncle whom I visited with a weekend ago. Today I received word that my aunt died Sunday evening. She, like so many people I love and am lucky to call kin and friend was one of my heroes. My uncle is a retired career military man who achieved the rank of Lt. Colonel before his retirement many years ago. He has combat experience on many fronts and was a paratrooper. Jumping out of a plane is one thing. Jumping out of a plane into enemy fire is quite another. Aunt Jimmie never received a formal rank from the military but her commitment to her family and her partnership with Uncle Jack through his career and their life together are worthy of a formal decoration in honor of her sacrifice and achievement.

In a world that decries single parent families as a source of dysfunction yet expects military families to endure long periods of absence of a parent, Aunt Jimmie had times when she cared for her children while Uncle Jack was away. Like other women in similar circumstances, she made sure her kids felt loved by two parents and helped them know and feel pride in their Dad's commitment to his responsibilities as a dad and to their country. In times that would cause other people's relationships to crumble it's apparent that theirs grew stronger.

Uncle Jack and his family traveled the world, but seldom enjoyed shared family holidays or family reunions because we were separated by thousands of miles and duties. Our connection to them was a tape recorder my grandfather purchased. When we gathered together at Grandma and Grandpa's each of us would speak into the microphone our love and wishes for them so far away. Our first reunion with everyone was I think when I was 12. I was the oldest of the grandchildren and all 11 of us were posed on two saw horses in order of birth for a picture to commemmorate the visit. I held Gussie who was a toddler and my cousin Jeff held his baby brother Todd. I think it is the only picture of one of the very few times we all may have been together at once. Last weekend when Uncle Jack and I stopped in at his daughter Gussie's home I reminisced about that picture and Gussie quickly pulled it out. It was such a wonderful experience to see that picture with the little girl I held on my lap.

After Aunt Jimmie and Uncle Jack returned stateside and ultimately retired we had more time and opportunities to be with them. When they moved to Florida I began to see them more often and formed an affection and admiration for them that only grew as I came to know them as an adult. We emailed and shared holiday cards and it was always a good visit when I saw them on a trip to see Mom and Dad in Florida.

Aunt Jimmie was a person who laughed and loved wholeheartedly. She was quick to observe and tease about people's idiosyncracies. Spending time with her family and connecting with them was a huge priority in her life. Her kindness was wonderful to experience and to see her look at you with love and sheer pleasure in being with you could fill your heart to the top. I saw that look and smile when I walked into her room last weekend. Sharing time with her and Uncle Jack was an incredible gift and most generous of them to be willing to welcome me. I would have driven anywhere to have experienced that time with them.

As you know, I take great store in the importance of showing up for those you love in your life. Showing up can be a call or an e-mail, a trip or a word of grace. Showing up can be risking someone's ire to tell them you have some concerns about a decision or situation. It may not achieve the desired result but none the less you were willing to risk something you didn't want to lose to be there for them. Showing up says the other is important to you in a way that compells you to be there for them. I am incredibly fortunate to have people who show up for me. Those acts made a difference in my life that that restored me long after they were received. My aunt and uncle are two of the many who have shown up for me and made my life better.

At the time of my dear aunt's passing I will grieve the loss of one who was so loved by so many. Aunt Jimmie know that you will live on in my heart and the person I try to be to those I meet. I will be sure to give your smile and greeting that is as welcoming as the sun. Like you, I will use humor to bring others joy and love. I will love with all my heart those dear to me extravagantly and generously. You live on in the lives of those you have touched.

Recipe for life

Show up.


  1. Your best recipe to date. I am so sorry for your loss. What a touching tribute to your Aunt and Uncle.

  2. i agree... the best recipe by far. xoxoxox