I lost one of the dearest people in my life last week. My “Auntie” was 95 years young and had more personality in her little finger than most people have in their entire bodies. She was filled to the brim with determination and spunk, or as my British mother liked to say, “piss and vinegar.”
You couldn’t get away with any B.S. with Auntie. She always wanted to hear it as straight as she told it. She lost her husband (my uncle) well over 30 years ago, but kept a boyfriend well into her eighties. She loved to travel and took a cruise through the Caribbean every year with her best friend until she lost both the friend and most of her eyesight about 10 years ago.
The thing is, she rarely complained.
She always wanted to know what was new with you. And boy, did she have the best stories. While her body increasingly failed her, her mind never did. She was sharp as a tack to the very end. And she loved nothing more than a reason to celebrate.
One of the many things Auntie used to tell me was, “don’t send me flowers when I’m dead. I want them while I’m alive.” 95 years in New Orleans will do that to a person. She knew what it meant to live in the present – to enjoy every card game, every bowl of red beans & rice, every Mardi Gras parade.
Never once did I ever hear her utter, “Maybe in a few years I’ll…” or “If only I could see better I would…” Nope, never.
She loved every party – every birthday, graduation, holiday, new job, engagement and wedding. When she could no longer travel herself, my husband and I sent her a postcard from every destination we visited over the past seven years. She wanted to know every detail of every trip and would spend hours looking at pictures under a giant lighted magnifying glass that enabled her to see a little better.
Auntie would be furious if she knew there was any sadness at her departure, any self pity or pause. She wanted no funeral, no memorial service, and definitely, no flowers.
Over the years, she got lots of flowers. She was surrounded by people who loved her. And she loved them back, fiercely.
While she was alive, she lived.
© Liz Dennery Sanders 2011