Honoring My Aunt Joan

18 Mar

I was reluctant to write a post about the very recent death of my Aunt Joan, my father’s sister. She requested and had a very small funeral on March 13, one day after her death—there were just 10 of us. I’m sure she did not want to draw attention to her demise from emphysema.  My sister and my aunt and cousins (from the “other side” of the family) shared sentiments and sadness via phone calls and e-mails as we grieved. As I thought about her and our relationship, I recalled mentioning her in a few posts and even giving her a spotlight when I wrote about my Other Mothers . I soon felt compelled to share my thoughts about her and honor her with a post.

After a complicated kinship with my aunt: living in the same neighborhood for most of my childhood, sharing holiday celebrations, family feuds that lasted years, we settled into a comfortable and reciprocal relationship. After my father died, I could not wait to sit with her and make sure I knew details of his childhood and early adult years. At age 23, I was eager to have adult conversations with my dad, to get to know him on a different level, but it was too late. Aunt Joan was the perfect substitute. And, she enjoyed reminiscing.

We continued weekly phone conversations until just a few weeks ago. While I was growing up, she had the unfortunate distinction of being obstinate. She did things her way, the right way. As her disease progressed, she seemed to become more mellow and positive. And, she gave advice with compassion and without judgment. If I told her I was frustrated with my son’s random and unruly behavior, she told me how my cousin acted as a child and what she did. She provided that “motherly wisdom.” When she told me about some strange health issues, I asked her if the doctors conferred with each other on her medication. She later credited me with saving her life because the doctors had mistakenly prescribed medications that should not be taken together. I provided that “daughterly care.”

While she was distraught over my mom’s illness and death, she did not heed my mom’s request that she quit smoking. That remained a sore point during my mom’s last few years. Her diagnosis of emphysema 8 years ago gave her no choice but to quit smoking and shocked her into the reality of what she had done to herself. I am glad she did not choose to be angry at herself and instead just accepted the fate she brought on.

A few weeks after starting my blog, I told her about it. Honestly, I was nervous she would be offended that I chose to write about my mom and not her brother. Since she never became comfortable with technology, I printed and mailed her the posts I had written. Her response overwhelmed me—she loved what I was doing. She immediately understood the need I had to explore my bond with my mom. Her mom, my Grandma Lena, lived to be 93 years old and she still thought about and missed her every day.

So, another void opened with this passing of one of my “other mothers.” I almost did not write about her and now I can’t stop. This is just my point, we sometimes wait too long to think about people who have been a part of lives forever and the impact they have had on us. Yet, it is never too late to appreciate them—and even write about them.

6 Responses to “Honoring My Aunt Joan”

  1. lori pitkowsky March 19, 2012 at 7:32 am #

    A testament to Aunt Joan… how blessed she was to have a niece like you in her life. xo to you Shar.

    • Shari Danzig Stein March 19, 2012 at 8:06 pm #

      Thanks Lori-you are so sweet. My aunt often asked about you–she knew how caring you are!

  2. robin kahn March 19, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

    So sorry about your Aunt. You were both lucky to have each other. Beautifully written. Thinking of you during this difficult time,

    • Shari Danzig Stein March 19, 2012 at 8:07 pm #

      Thanks Robin–I know you’ve been there…thanks for your thoughtful reply.

  3. Deborah the Closet Monster March 23, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

    I’m so sorry to hear about the passing of your aunt (may her memory ever be a blessing), but so glad you did sit down and write about her. I love to learn of the people who inspired and shaped those I admire. Through this, I have learned a great deal. ♥

    • Shari Danzig Stein March 23, 2012 at 10:37 pm #

      Thanks Deb–your support and sweet thoughts mean so much to me–especially because I admire you….

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