I always liked opening up your cards because, they weren’t just cards, they were mini-letters written in your cursive hand, sweet, pretty, sincere.
You always put, “T” quotation marks when you signed cards and letters. I always loved that because, your quotation marks said to me, “this is a nickname but, it is not all that I am”.
You were one, in our large family, who welcomed my presence in this world with excitement and joy. I don’t think that you or, any one of our family members, know how much you each mean to me. You all made me feel welcome, loved, cherished and wanted and, even though each and every one of you made me feel so loved, I found a kindred spirit in you, Auntie “T”.
I remember one day, you came to pick me up from Grandpa Bob’s house. I remember that I was going to spend an entire day and night with you and, I was so excited.
You took me to your apartment, near the Seattle Center. Your apartment smelled so nice and the sunlight was streaming in bright, through all the windows in your apartment. You had a white couch, in fact, most of your apartment was white. Everything seemed bathed in some sort of magic fairy light. I can remember you opening the door with your key and feeling like I stepped into a fairyland, feeling like a creature, sniffing the air, afraid to touch anything but wanting to touch everything so much, I tingled. I was on my very best behavior for you, Auntie “T”.
You put on Strawberry Shortcake and , you watched it with me. I loved you for that.
You gave me a bath in your shiny, clean bathroom, full of treasures and trinkets and perfumes and I loved you for that.
As you got me ready for bed, you presented me with a diaper to wear. I was five. You confused me with that…(LOL) but, because I love you, because you gave me this wonderful day, because you told me why and I understood, I put on that diaper and snuggled into your clean bed, crisp and soft and smelling of sunshine and my heart felt glad and content when you slipped into bed next to me and I could feel your warmth, radiating in the space between us and I was so grateful for your love and closeness.
In the morning, the sunlight of the day streaming in through the drawn blinds of your windows, I found your vanity and your jewelry box. My fingers itched to open up the boxes, to see the treasures inside and, you came over and began to pull out the drawers and show me what was within. You drew out a long string of pearls and showed me how to tie a knot in them. I thought it was so elegant, grownup. I loved you for that.
I remember being your flower girl, at your wedding. I wore a pink dress, with pale pink polka dots and, I stood by you and your Husband on the deck of a country club. I remember being disappointed by your dress, it wasn’t poofy enough for me but, I DO remember how beautiful you looked. I remember you glowing, your cheeks pink, elegant in your form fitting lace gown that lovingly hugged your body and the darling baby in your womb, my sweet Cousin, your longed for, cherished baby and Daughter. You weren’t afraid, you were proud and happy and, even though I didn’t understand many things yet, I understood what I saw and I was proud to stand next to you.
I remember being invited to your home, to visit you and your Husband and Daughter, when she was only a year or two old. I adored you, loved you and if you asked me to do anything, I would do it. I spent time with my Cousin, we went out together, I watched you and learned from you, as I always did since I could remember because, I loved you.
Auntie, we lost touch, for such a long time. After Grandpa Bob died, our family was in turmoil. I don’t think that our family knew and appreciated how much Grandpa brought and kept us all together until he left us but, he did.
(I think you have done the same but, instead of tearing us apart, you have brought us together.)
Everyone was so angry with each other and, I couldn’t understand it. It made ME angry because, I just wanted love and comfort between us all but, it didn’t happen.
Two years ago, after the birth of my Son and, after Facebook, I got in touch with you again, Auntie “T” on our own, without family squabbles in the way. I never wanted the squabbles, anyway. I love you and, all of our family, in spite and despite of that terrible scar. I always wished it was gone and, during one of our conversations by phone, I heard in your voice, your heart and you wanted it to be gone, too.
You sent my boy a vintage outfit. You sent me a hand crocheted hat, perfume samples, sweet scented soap for my birthday. You sent me salted caramels and, I didn’t have the heart to tell you that I didn’t like them because, you loved them so. You sent me salted chocolate, I liked those much better and, even more so, my Son did. You sent me shoes you weren’t wearing any longer, (and since you have gone, I have picked up those shoes, stared at the creases your feet have made and find comfort in those creases. I find it…poetic that, me, the person who wanted to be most like you, has a pair of shoes you gave….). You sent me things because of love and, I loved you for that, not for them.
You would comment on my Facebook statuses. You claimed Don Draper for your own and you were smart, funny, sincere. You earned the respect and love of my friends, who never met you in person, only read your comments and, because you were yourself, they wanted to know you, meet you, looked forward to your comments.
You wanted to visit me and, I was so ashamed that I felt I couldn’t financially provide a visit I thought worthy of you, that I didn’t encourage your visit. You wanted to see my Son. You wanted to spend time with him. I can only think that as your soul flew away, you passed by and saw my Son, the sunlight in his hair, the smile on his face, my heart as a Mother, no secrets kept.
On the day I found out about your choice to leave us, I imagined you, leaving the vessel of your body, traveling that short distance from earthly life to after life and I saw Grandpa, meeting you with a smile on his face, his arms outstretched, welcoming you to the next life with such love and comfort…it makes my heart ache, in a good way.
As I put the pieces together, after asking myself, “Why?” I am not angry with you, at you. I am gravely disappointed with myself and, angry at myself because of the disappointment. I know, rationally, that there may not have been anything that I could have done, to prevent your departure from this world, your life as it was but, even though I’m told, over and over again by people who love me, I can’t stop myself from thinking about how I didn’t let you know I love you, how much you meant to me.
I sent you an email, telling you how much you meant to me and why and, that’s between just you and me. I thanked you for your love and kindness but…
I can’t help myself from thinking that I could have done more and, that’s a dangerous road to travel down and, I know that, from wherever you are, you wouldn’t want me or, anyone you love, (yes, LOVE, in the present tense) to allow ourselves to be swept away by such self-pitying thoughts but, dammit, the way you left…
I’m not angry at you. I’m angry with myself. I’m full of a sequences of, “Maybe” and, “IF”.
You were one of the most important people in my life and, even though you made the choice you did, I still don’t regret and, never will, my choice to want to be like you.
I know that my vision of wanting to be like you is a romantic notion but, I Loved and Love You.
I Loved and Love you for who you were, the strength, hope and determination with which you led your life.
I ACHE thinking that you chose to leave this life, by your own hand, mired in so much hurt and loneliness, not seeing the truth of how many people loved, cherished and enjoyed you. I ACHE knowing that you were in such a place that you couldn’t hear us, that it couldn’t penetrate the walls you built around yourself.
It haunts me because…I have felt that way, too, sometimes.
Auntie “T”? You woke me up.
Your passing, kissed me awake.
The day after I found out you had left us, I began to really look at the world, for the first time in a long time.
It’s not been some magical, romantic transformation but, it’s come in bits and pieces.
The way the sunlight glows around the edges of a cloud.
The sharp tang of cold air in my nose, on my cheeks.
The smile and love, in the eyes of my Son.
The love of people around me, that I always took for granted, that I never heard or saw in truth, before. I’m finding solace in the arms of people who have always had their arms open and, I’m finding that I have some hills to climb, in order to become closer, with some people who have known me, my entire life.
I am thinking of you and learning from you, even now.
Your exit from this life, shocking, abrupt, painful and cold has dawned a new day in my soul and, the best way I can think of to honor you is, to remember you, remember your goodness and love, to think of you being able to see my Son without worrying about buying a plane ticket and knowing that, one day, we’ll be able to visit as family in Heaven.
Your choice has left a gaping wound in mine and, many hearts but, I see you, embraced by Grandpa in paradise, far away from the stupid, meaningless troubles of bills and jobs and missed connections in this life. To me, where you’re at, you can visit upon each one of us, your family, friends, loved ones and see us as we are, know our hearts, visit with us and your light, filled with love and peace, there to look upon us in a way that you may not have been able to in physical life.
Your choice has shown me that nothing, in this life, is so bad that I would leave it by choice. Your choice has sharpened my ears, heart and mind to listen with all that I am, to those who are in pain. I am listening to myself first, I am appreciating life. I am grateful for what I have. I am finding that nothing in my life is as bad as I thought it was, before.
You have humbled me, lifted my heart, left me your strength and memories of your kindness, love, honesty, humor, strength and weakness.
You have left us, in your abruptness, to pick up the pieces, to patch together, ourselves. Your life and death has shone a light on us and, it’s hard to see in the blinding light but, I hear you and I think you’re saying, “Please, understand. Please, Forgive me. Please, Love one another.”
That is all I need.
When it’s My time, Auntie T? I hope you’ll meet me but, if not, I’ll find you because, I want to see your face and tell you, with my eyes, how much I love you and visit with you and be happy in your presence.
Teresa Ann Hines Norton
Daughter, Sister, Aunt, Wife, Mother, Friend, Woman, Human Being, Soul.
I will not forget you.
I will wait to be near you, again and, I know, it will be a joyful meeting and we will have much to catch up on.
You are always loved and, we are missing you.