My Aunt Nancy has been gone for thirty-two years. I still miss her. She was my confidante, my advocate, my partner in fun. We had such good times together. I would stay at her house as often as my mom would allow.
I remember once, when she lived in a large house across the corner from our house, she gave me the use of one of her upstairs rooms to make my own. I would hang out there listening to Jeannie C. Riley sing Harper Valley PTA – I knew all the words.
I don’t remember us ever doing anything profound or taking major trips together. We just hung out. We had a soul connection that is rare. I would go to the grocery with her, or out running errands. I remember she and my grandmother would hit all three grocery stores in town in order to take advantage of all the sales. They’d have store flyers in hand, along with their lists and then buy meat at one store, bread at another and so forth. It was exhausting and took the better part of a day. I wouldn’t trade those times for anything.
She loved to sing old songs and play her accordion. I remember once sitting on the front porch with her, accordion playing loudly. Sometimes I find myself humming a verse of an old song, and I remember it is one that I heard Aunt Nancy sing.
I have so many snapshots of times spent with her. Like the time we painted a bedroom pumpkin orange. It was bright. To this day, orange is my happy color. I’m sure it has something to do with being exposed to that paint. And the memory of a good time.
That was the same summer she let me watch the movie Ode to Billy Joe. I remember her telling me that was probably a movie my mom wouldn’t want me to watch. I remember it being rather haunting. I grew up without a TV, so watching at Aunt Nancy’s house was a treat.
During this particular visit, even though I wasn’t old enough to drive, she allowed me to drive up the back country road to the store on the corner to purchase some supplies. I had my younger cousin with me and when we arrived back home, I gave him the wheel and he drove back up the driveway. I felt so grown-up. That was one of the best summers with Aunt Nancy. I spent a whole two weeks just hanging out with her. That was the same visit in which I made chili and mistook the cinnamon for chili powder. We ate it. My cousins still remember this event.
A year or so after that, she was living in yet another farm house and again I was staying with her. This time, I remember painting the windowsill in an upstairs bedroom for her son. I also remember catching the oven on fire. She was down the road at my uncle’s shop and I went to the door yelling at the top of my lungs, but she couldn’t hear me. I finally managed to grab the flour and throw it on the fire. I can’t remember exactly what happened, but I know I had the oven on, not knowing that something was already in there and it caught on fire. She still trusted me after that.
It’s funny how our memory takes snapshots. I have so many scenes in my head of times spent with Aunt Nancy. Just a portrait here and there of a moment spent with her. Moments talking about boys I had crushes on, moments dreaming about the future. Oh, how short that future was.
The summer she passed away I didn’t realize how sick she was, how soon she’d be gone. She was in the hospital and wanted me with her. I was babysitting and couldn’t go until later in the weekend. The Sunday I arrived, everyone finally cleared out and I was sitting in the chair by her bed. We were talking about Rocky, whom I hadn’t begun dating yet. She knew I had a crush on him and she loved the idea of me dating him, because he was related to her husband’s family. We were just sitting there innocently, dreaming about the future when she asked me to go get the nurse. I never saw her alive again. It was the most heartbreaking moment of my life, having to let her go. I know she is in heaven surrounded by God’s grace and beauty.
I lived with her family for two weeks, just trying to keep a daily routine of meals and laundry going. But, I had to go off to college. I was too young to take on such a big role. I wish I could have kept them safe forever. Safe from the pain of losing a mother and the heartaches they endured as a result. There is pain in loss, but there is healing in memories. I treasure the memories I have of Aunt Nancy. I have an album full of memory snapshots that I browse through when I’m missing her. Sometimes I imagine what it would be like to have new “pictures” to add to that album.
Treasure the times you have with your loved ones. Make sure your memory album has lots of snapshots for future reference. Relish the everyday moments because they are precious. Never forget, that even in death, God knows what he is doing and he always has a plan. He can heal our hurts and give us peace. No matter how much someone loves us (and Aunt Nancy loved her family very much), God loves us even more.
Remembering in grace,
Teresa (aka Sadie)