Let's face it; by the time you reach my age, (I'll be 59 in May) you've lost a few loved ones, and a few friends.
Your grandparents are usually deceased, and like me, you've lost one parent or both. Losing my mother in 2013 at the age of 83, I am still extremely blessed to have my father still with me, at age 88.
Lately, it seems like there have been quite a few of those losses. Just in the past few months, several of my high school classmates have passed, mostly from cancer. One of my best friends from that time died of breast cancer two weeks ago. I really thought she would beat it, and from what her family says, they believed she would too. But it was not meant to be. She will forever be missed.
But the hardest thing of all lately was the loss of my mother's beloved older sister, Virginia Frances Edgerton Christensen.
My Aunt Virginia, age 10 and my mother Beatrice, age 6 at their christening into the Congregational Church
Some would say, well, she was 92. So many of us don't get to live such a long life. And they would be right. Her death was not a painful one; she merely slipped into a coma and passed a few days later. But in her passing, she took the final visage of something that, while in years has been gone for a long time, still survived as long as she was here.
It was the childhood that because of her, was special, if not almost magical.
What was special? Of course the time we spent together; trips to Friendly's Ice Cream parlor, and shopping trips that filled my closet full of more clothes than I could ever wear. She took me to my first movie, "Mary Poppins," and took me with her when she and my grandmother purchased two Saint Bernard puppies, Monday and Friday, who I used to ride around their Connecticut property. They built a massive swimming pool in their backyard, just so I could learn to swim.
But if she had never done any of those things, I would not have cared. What I wanted was to sit next to her on the sofa, cuddled at her side as I was read to, or just talked to. She listened to every word I said, even as a young child. When I spoke with her, it was like she took in every word, and made me feel everything I said was very important. It made me feel as though I was just as important as any adult. Even the ordinary things I did, she thought were special. I was made to feel I was the most unique child that was ever born. As long as she was there, I felt as though I could conquer the world. There were no limits to what I could do.
Our house and my aunt and uncle's were all built on my grandfather's property.
As a young child, I would sit at the dining area window everyday about 4pm, and wait to see her brown Chevrolet station wagon pull up the long hill of her driveway. When I saw it, I would run outside, bolting across a small open field that lay between our two houses. I would run there into her waiting arms, usually with my mother at my heels, scolding me for running off without her permission. All I wanted to do was be with her. She made everything wonderful.
When our family left Connecticut for California when I was 7, leaving her was devastating for me. I couldn't wait for my aunt, uncle and grandmother to come at Christmas. I would count the days and the weeks till their arrival. During their two weeks with us, she would go Christmas caroling with me and my girl scout troop. I remember when she was there, there wasn't a single person in the world I wanted to be with. I didn't want my parents, or even my girlfriends. It was almost as though if I let her out of my sight, she would disappear. She was all I needed to be happy. When she left to go home, I would cry so hard I would make myself ill. I would take me days to recover.
When I about 13, they stopped coming every year for Christmas, and our visits became more sporadic. I grew up, having my own family and building my own life. Over those years, most of my contact with her was over the phone. Once they retired to Florida in 1990, our contact became even less. I heard about Auntie most of the time through my mother.
It was when my mother died five years ago that our contact resumed. In the loss of my amazing mother, we grieved together, and not only were we able to keep my mother's memory alive, but also all the memories we shared over all these years. I felt so fortunate that we could still talk, even though her hearing was failing, and the phone was becoming more difficult for her.
Her death has turned my world on its axis. When someone that important to you goes, regardless of how old they are, it is only understandable that nothing in the world feels the same. All I can do, in her memory, is love the people in my life as much as she always loved me to honor her memory.
I would like to also honor her memory by reminding people that every child should be made special like I was. Each child is unique for themselves, just by being here on this earth. Each child may not be special to everyone, but they should be special to someone. Nourish and celebrate them, just for themselves. It will make them flourish. And who knows? With all that love, the world my generation leaves behind may be a better one.
And as for my aunt, my mother, and all of those I've loved and that have loved me that are no longer on earth, saying thank you seems inadequate somehow, but all I have left are my words and my undying love. You are all here with me in spirit. May we be together again some day!
Auntie and Mom, late 2000s