Nearly 3 years ago, we lost one of the most unique, compassionate, remarkable women I have ever known. My aunt Morning died on Dec. 9, 2007. It’s hard to believe that it’s been that long, because I can still remember fondly her laugh, her smell, her warm embrace. Every time I talked to her she called me “honey” or “sweetie” throughout the conversation. But it wasn’t just with me. It was like that with everyone. She was so personable and friendly. At her funeral, my uncle’s eulogy (read by one of my cousins) recounted different stories about how she became instant friends with almost anyone—including a Verizon customer service rep and a grocery store clerk. That’s exactly how she was.
And I hate—with a fiery anger and deep sadness—that I have to say that’s how she was.
I miss her all the time. Like it is with anyone I’ve lost, I find myself suddenly “remembering” she’s gone (as though I could ever forget) and feeling as though I’ve had the wind knocked out of me.
Morning was beyond beautiful, more tender and loving than anyone else could ever hope to be. She was someone you couldn’t help but love—deeply and unconditionally. She had an amazing ability to wrap you up in warmth and laughter, to make you feel as though you were the most important person in the world. And I truly believe that to Morning, you were. She found the ultimate joy in the simple pleasures of conversation, of companionship, of love.
I miss those moments with her. Growing up, she was like a second mother to me. Her kids and I—especially her son Andrew, with whom I was only 3 months apart—were nearly inseparable. I spent as much time with them as I did with my own family. And as I got older, our relationship grew into a friendship, too. She was special to me. She was special to everyone.
Devastation does not begin to describe what it was like to lose her, not only for me but surely for our entire family. I can’t pretend to imagine even a little bit what it’s like for her husband and children. I can’t pretend to have the right words to say. I can’t pretend to do justice in describing how incredible she was to the very people who knew her best. And I certainly can’t pretend to verbalize what it’s like to lose that. I can only hope they know that we all share in their grief and remember her for the incredible person she was. As often as I think about her, I think about them too, and pray for them as they deal with this tremendous loss every day for the rest of their lives.
The other night I was looking through the photos I have of her. I must have gone through them 10 times. I sat there and sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. I stared in her eyes and ached for the longing just to talk to her one more time. To hug her. To have her back with us.
The cruel truth is that it’s impossible to change the past. If it weren’t, the deaths of our loved ones would top my list of things to undo. Instead, we have to find the strength and courage to go on despite the tragedies, the hardships, the pain. To be honest, some days this feels impossible. But as I wrote in an earlier post, I want to try my hardest to fight through it:
I want, for me and for anyone who has lost a loved one, to know that just because a person is gone, their legacy and the imprint they’ve had on our lives goes on. I want to remember them fondly. I want to cry every once in a while (or more than that). I want to get angry sometimes and ask “why.” I want to be sad when they can’t be here to share in life’s most important moments. I want to smile when I think of them. I want to tell my kids and grandkids about them and how special they were. I want to do good, even big, things with my life. I want to make them proud. I want to remember that they’re with God, a belief I truly couldn’t get through such pain without.
I want to find a way to let grief be a part of me, but not all of me. Some days it feels like it is all of me. That’s ok, too, because I don’t want it to go away either. As much as our loved ones were a part of our life, the grief will be, too.
So this week, I’m remembering her. I’m trying not to remember the horrible day our whole world turned upside down. Instead, I’m trying to focus on that beautiful smile. Her goofy sense of humor. Her deep love for everyone—especially her husband, children, and grandchildren. In that I find hope. In the beauty of her grandchildren, the incredible grace and strength of her husband and children, I find inspiration. In our family, I find comfort. In our memories, I find wisdom. And in God, I find faith.
I am truly blessed to be a part of my big, crazy family. I know that our family will never be the same, and in many ways, that makes me sad, too. But I still cherish every part of it—the ups and the downs—because I wouldn’t have it any other way. I wouldn’t trade a single thing for the blessing that is my family, especially the blessing that was Morning. And though I’ve rambled on much longer than I planned, it all comes down to this: I miss her. I love her. I wish she was here.
Here’s a link to her memorial video, if you’re interested.