My great Aunt Alice, aka AA, is a wonderful lady. Unfortunately, I
grew up on the West Coast and she lived Back East, so growing up I
didnt really know her other than she was the one whose cats signed my
birthday cards. In fact, I didnt know much about any of my
When I was twenty, I went to New York to work as an intern with a
publishing house. AA lived a bus ride away in New Jersey. The
first time I went to visit her I realized that I could spend every weekend
of my ten weeks seeing a different relative. I decided to get to
know one of them very well instead of all of them not-really. I
I remember showing up at her door. I was sick as a dog. She
took me in and instantly I understood what is meant by blood is thicker
than water. Her home was warm, and she cooked me my first real meal
in two weeks. I watched as she put a whole stick of butter in the
frying pan. Butter is in your veins, she said. Yes, it
No one knows how old AA really is. She has long, beautiful hair that
her generation criminally taught her to always keep in a bun. Up
until just a few years ago her vision was perfect and she could take her
car down her vertical driveway as long as there wasnt any ice.
She lives alone, Uncle Ed having passed on years before. Shes
always taken care of herself and others. I call on Jesus, she
said once as she struggled to open a stuck window. It was the
maddest I ever saw her get. Oh, she said, help me Jesus.
And then the window opened.
On my plane trip with Skylar we visited AA. Two months before when I
told her we were coming out to see her, she said, Well I may not be
here when you get here.
Youd better be.
Oh, I dont know. Youll have to talk to Upstairs about
that, she said.
You tell Upstairs, I said, that theyd better wait until after
Skylar and I get there.
I wasnt prepared for what I saw when Skylar and I arrived. A few weeks
earlier family had found tall stacks of mail and rotting food scattered
throughout her house. They had moved AA to a rest home, I thought,
and I had already planned where I was going to take her to dinner.
But the directions took me to a hospital.
AA smiled as we entered the room. She must have weighed less than a
Skylar stole the show. While he sucked on his bottle, he was calm
enough to lie next to her. Otherwise he played with her wheelchair
or chewed on her bed. I did most of the talking. I told AA she
was one of my Heroes.
Pray for me, she said in a way that I could not mistake what she was
When we visited her the next day, AA was in a half-state, neither present
nor entirely gone. That night she was admitted to emergency. I
sat squeezing her hand and prayed with her, sang Amazing Grace, reminded
her that Jesus had always helped with her storm windows and that he was
here with her right now.
I said good-bye.
AA died while Skylar and I flew to Colorado. I knew she had died,
even before I got the phone call.
My brother said he felt guilty that he was happy she had passed quickly.
I feel no guilt for my happiness. She was an amazing woman to me, my
favorite aunt. I wont see her body again in this life, but a part
of her will always be with me.
The beauty of my last visit with her continues to overwhelm me. It
was important to both of us that she meet Skylar. And, like flowers
in a vase that have passed their bloom, she has made room for the new
bloom, my son Skylar.
Such is the irrepressible mystery of life.