Sunday, September 28, 2008

Aunt Mary

This is my mom and Aunt Mary at the airport after one of Mom's many trips to Michigan when Grandma was sick.

My Aunt Mary passed away this afternoon. I know I haven't blogged in forever, but I can't sleep and I need to get this all out, so I'm sharing it with you, my friends. Aunt Mary was my mom's only sister. Everyone in my mom's family basically stayed in the area where they grew up in Michigan but my mom.

This morning at church LaRae leaned over and mentioned that this woman reminded her of Patty -- Mary's daughter in law -- our cousin. I smiled and thought about the last time I was in Michigan. It was less than a year ago for Grandma's funeral. Before I left, Aunt Mary hugged me close and told me that just because Grandma was gone, it didn't mean I couldn't visit. She said that she and Uncle Ken would come get me from the airport and let me stay with them and that she enjoyed my visit despite the circumstances. That was the last thing she said to me besides "I love you" and I told her I loved her too and that I'd try. This morning before I knew anything was wrong, I thought, " I should really go visit -- watch for cheap airfare deals -- I miss all of them!"

I went to lunch with friends; then I went home to get Sprinkles to go head to the school to do our typical Sunday afternoon work. He played fetch with me and ate ice cubes in the copy room as we waited for my unit's worth of copies. I didn't think to bring my cell phone with me because everyone knew I was at work -- they could wait. I stopped on the way out to chat with some co-workers without even looking at my phone.

As I was walking out of the school, I noticed I had a message from Mom. All she said was "hey it's Mom. Call me when you get this. Ok?" I could tell from her tone that something was wrong. I immediately thought of Nana. I love Nana, but I'm trying to be mentally prepared for a call that she's had an accident or worse since she's so old and her mind is going. Thinking it was that Nana had fallen and gotten hurt or something scary but heal-able, I went ahead and pulled out of the school onto the road.


As the phone rang, my heart started to fill with dread. Something about Mom's voice had been really really wrong. Was Dad ok? In four short rings my mind was already racing through how to deal with the loss of a parent or what horrible thing had happened. My copies were made fo the week. I could get a sub, and they could deal without me. I have 15 sick days built up. 4 rings is all it took for those ideas to all go flashing through my mind. This had to be big, something unexpected, but when you know something unexpected is coming, it doesn't make it any easier to believe.

Mom answered. Her "hello" sounded defeated, drained, lost. I don't recall what was said in between "hello" and "Aunt Mary passed away today." My face crumpled, I pulled over immediately (I hadn't gotten far), and choked out, "how? when?" Last week Aunt Mary had a pain in her leg, but they'd been walking about a lot at the grandkids' sports games. This morning she started to have trouble breathing. The called an ambulance around 10 am. At the hospital the doctors thought that it might be a blood clot in her lung, and they decided to move her to a different hosiptal. One of her sons and her husband were with her at the hospital, talking with her. Her brother was on his way. She told the nurse that she needed to go to the bathroom before they left for the other hospital. In the bathroom she had a seizure and before they got her back to the bed, she was gone. She was 58.

When I was talking to Mom we took some time to talk about memories of Aunt Mary. We would visit Michigan about once a year when I was little. I used to call Aunt Mary at work and ask her if she could come and play. Mom said that meant a lot to Aunt Mary. I loved her so much. She was always so fun! As I got older, Aunt Mary and I would always pick up right where we had left off: with a strong, loving bond. We got in trouble together and laughed (a lot) together. She loved me, and I know she missed getting to see me more often. I missed it too. The last couple of times I visited she would stay up late chatting with me about anything and everything. I cried with her the first night I saw Grandma this summer. I cried at the nursing home and I cried in Aunt Mary's arms that night. Our mutual sorrow for the loss of Grandma's motor abilties came out in our tears. She was an amazing, loving, Christian woman. I wish I'd had more time with her. Mom said that Aunt Mary really appreciated my last couple of visits and enjoyed that time with me.

It's just so sudden. I don't know how to handle it all really. This is the first family member that has passed so suddenly and whose funeral I won't get to attend. It's too far away and costs too much. I don't know how to handle not getting to say a formal goodbye to her. I don't get how I am supposed to mourn without my family. How can I get through this without a hug from/for my mom? Ah, my mom, I can't imagine losing LaRae. I think that's why this is hitting me even harder. Mom lost her sister. Everytime that hits me, it just makes me cry again. How can you go on without your sister? The bond between sisters is like nothing else.

This afternoon I've traded between shock and sobbing. I don't know how I'm supposed to just pick up and go on as if this world isn't missing someone I love. I feel a little cheated -- like she was too young to die -- I mean, she wasn't super young, but she wasn't old enough to die! I'm not ready for my aunts and uncles, my parents, my loved ones to pass on. I need some advance warning! They can't just be snatched away like this! I went grocery shopping tonight to distract me (just sitting on the couch wasn't cutting it anymore), and it felt so fake. Like I shouldn't be shopping. I don't know how to really explain it.

I am so deeply sorrowful. I am fearful that I will spend a lot of time crying over the next few days. My plan is to hole myself up in my classroom. If I don't talk to my friends, I won't talk about it. Then I won't break down at school. I don't want to break down in front of my classes.

It's almost midnight. I'm going to be a zombie tomorrow.

Please pray for my family. They say Uncle Ken is in shock. Please pray for him especially. He will need all the strength God can give him when it all really sinks in. I can't see him without Aunt Mary. She had two sons, both married with lots of kids each. So many loved ones that she has left behind. Please pray for strength and comfort. Death is never easy, but someone passing so unexpectedly, so suddenly is even harder it seems.

I guess I'll end this entry with my feelings of hope that are getting me through. I AM comforted that she's in Heaven. I'm sure Grandma was just as surprised to see Aunt Mary there so soon as we were to lose her so suddenly, but I bet Grandma is taking her on the grand tour now. Aunt Mary did have some health problems -- I bet they're dancing across the golden streets together. (Ya know, I still email Grandma. I emailed her tonight.) Shelley now has most of her grandparents, an aunt, and an uncle with her -- people I've had to love me my whole life. I believe we know each other in Heaven. I believe I'll see Aunt Mary again. My hope is in Christ and the grace that He gives. Without hope and grace, without faith in the promise God has given us, death would be final, but with all of that, with the hope, the grace, and the faith that I cling to, I know it's only the beginning. I still miss Aunt Mary. I am still crying. I am still mourning the loss of a great woman, but through it all, I still have hope.

I love you all. Thanks for reading. Please pray.


  1. Joanna,
    I found your blog through others and just want to say that you and your family are in our thoughts and prayers. I have several Aunt's but one is very special to me, not sure how I will handle her death. So I can't say I know how it is to loose a close Aunt and I know saying "I am sorry" won't help much either. You have been in my thoughts and prayers lately and my prayer now is comfort for you as you mourn your loss. God Bless, Alyse Brown