Friday, August 17, 2012

Three Things I'll Always Remember About My Aunt Sharon

Less than a week ago, tradegy hit very close to home. With feelings of frustration, disappointment, heartbreak, and pain, I chose to celebrate instead of grieve.

When my cousin called to tell me about the accident, like everyone else, I was floored. Someone very close to me was taken suddenly, and without warning, from our lives.
The Three Stooges -- My Mother (left), My Aunt Sharon (right),
and My Aunt Sandy, Sharon's twin (center)

And yet, despite the heartbreak, the fear of having to share such awful news with others that were also close with her, and the sadness of knowing what lie ahead, I didn't cry.

I didn't get mad and punch the wall (though that was primarily because the baby was sleeping and I didn't feel like waking her up early!).

I didn't pour a stiff, tall drink to help me cope (that came later).

Actually, a small grin filled the corner of my lips, because the first thought that went through my head was an image of her smiling at me, saying "Hey Babe, I'm OK -- It'll Be Ok."

Everything was always going to be ok; everything always worked out. And if you knew my Aunt, you'd know that she called a lot of people Babe.

Perhaps she did that because there are so many of us in our special, extended family and it was just easier than trying to remember everyone's name... But with her, it truly was a term of endearment. If you were a Babe to her, it meant she loved you. And I loved being a Babe

For someone that had a difficult life (relative to what us younger folk consider hard), you would have never known it. Her smile could light up an entire room. And even if her life was at a low point, she'd listen to your successes and be genuinely happy for you. It's hard to find people like that these days.

She was strong. She raised three amazing children. She cared for and supported her husband as he battled illnesses for the last decade and a half of his life. And she worked -- doing hard work -- to provide for her family. She was strong, and she was brave.

She was also loud.

Last Friday night, I was fortunate enough to see her at a street festival. And while we talked about a lot of things, I'll never forget our last conversation.

The night prior, my wife and I had celebrated our anniversary and as part of that ritual, we always watch our wedding video (the reception part, not the actual service, who wants to see that...). As I was addressing the audience and thanking everyone for coming, I made a comment along the lines of "It's nice to meet so many people on my wife's side that I hadn't met before, and it's great that she got to meet the weird side of my family!"

Ba da bump.

And while the line went over well, there was one voice that was louder than the rest. In fact, my Aunt was hooting and hollaring like she was in the audience of the old Arsenio Hall show. It was great. She probably had been overserved, but if you can't get overserved at a family wedding, when can you, really? She brought such excitement everywhere she went, and we're fortunate that her daughter really seems to have the same effect (her sons, well, they're a tad more reserved...).

She was an amazing influence on my life and judging by the line that was out the door of the funeral home (and the fact that we had to park several blocks away to attend the Wake, in the suburbs!), it's clear that she had that kind of influence on many others too. I'm grateful that her spirit leaves on in my three cousins and will never forget the memories that we have.

But while there will be plenty of time to grieve, I think that for now, we need to celebrate her. We need to tell the stories that make us laugh. We need to have an extra glass of wine, because that's what Shar would have done. And we need to honor her not with tears, but by being reminded of all the wonderfulness she brought to our lives.

So there will be time to grieve, but for now, I implore those impacted by this to celebrate her, because if there was one thing she was really good at, it was celebrating.

There are three things that I will always remember about her. I'll remember to always be brave, even when things are darkest; I'll remember never to be afraid to be the loudest voice (or laugh) in the room; and I'll always remember that "Hey Babe, It's OK -- She's Ok."

I love you Aunt Sharon, rest in peace.

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