I had the sad occasion of attending a memorial service for my aunt recently. She passed away December 22, 2011, just 2 days before Christmas. She was not just any aunt. Her name was Aunt Georgie. She had a very special way about her. Her face and whole being would light up when you came into the room. She never left you feeling less than special after being in her presence.
She suffered a long battle with Congestive Heart Failure and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD). Her family is thankful she is now in heaven and no longer suffering. At the memorial service we not only shared beautiful songs like “How Great Thou Art,” we honored a life well lived. One particular thing I enjoyed about the service is when we were given an opportunity to share stories of Georgie with others who had come to honor her life. Stories were shared about what a gracious host she was. My favorite came from my mom, Myrna. I asked my mom to write what she tearfully shared about Georgie at the service.
“Duane and I grew up in a home with parents that were very reserved. They did not show emotions often and any signs of affection between parents and children did not often exist. Diane, my niece, can attest to the fact that when she was trying to take a picture of her Grandma and Grandpa on their wedding anniversary she was not able to convince Grandpa that he should hold Grandma’s hand for the picture taking. One of my favorite memories of Georgie goes back to when I was 13 years old and it was the day of Georgie and Duane’s wedding. After the wedding reception the families went to the home of Georgie’s Grandma and Grandpa Taylor to continue the celebration. My Dad was comfortably seated in a chair in the living room when Georgie, in her beautiful wedding gown, came up to my Dad, threw her arms around his neck, planted a big kiss on his cheek, and exuberantly said “Hi, Dad!” My Dad got a huge smile on his face and the coloring in his face turned as red as the dress Kim is wearing today. I remember thinking “I would never dare do that to my Dad” but I also remember being so happy because I knew that moment that Georgie was going to bring so much joy, laughter, and spirit to our family, qualities that our family certainly needed.”
One thing is for certain, you never left her presence without feeling loved and appreciated. May this be one of the reasons I share a little of my Aunt Georgie with you. When living with one or more serious chronic health conditions like you and I do, it is really easy to get caught up in our own health and develop a myopic focus. Can anyone really blame us? We can’t stop thinking about our health from the second we get up (and often overnight), worrying what our blood sugar is, how much insulin is on board, if we need a snack or more insulin. This pattern continues throughout the day with everything we put in our mouth, what kind of stresses are we facing, how much sleep we had the night before, are we able to get some exercise today, etc, etc… Doing the job of a pancreas is not something that can be set on the back burner — without consequences.
So how can I weave a very sad event, the loss of my beloved Aunt Georgie into a message that will hopefully inspire you? May we try to emulate my Aunt Georgie. I write with tears in my eyes recollecting the beauty, exuberance and love for others she shared. It did not matter what was going on in your life or how miserable you felt because of your health. When you were with Aunt Georgie, you could forget all those things and just become lost in her smile, adoration and love for you.
Our health can be a really, really hard thing. The last two opportunities I had to see my aunt in the months prior to her death, my own health got in the way. Sometimes this cross we carry is so heavy and we just need to share our story so someone else can hear us; our health challenges are often invisible to others. I will strive to be more like her. I will love a little more and think of me a a little less. I can’t quite tell you yet how successful I will be. I question whether this may sometimes feel like I am stuffing my own health, feelings and reality. At the same time, I also wish to stay genuine – what a careful balance… Despite the constant challenges and often minute by minute battles we face with our health, when I am in the presence of others, may I be able to set aside my thoughts and current health to bring a little love, light and joy to others?
Georgie’s qualities of warmth and love have been passed down as her spirit lives on in her children and grandchildren. After visiting with family that I have not seen for a long time due to distance, I saw that they too have the unique gift of loving and taking full attention of the person they are with. So Georgie, although you may not be here with us physically, your spirit, love and way of being lives on in the loving example you shared with your family.
Now I too am trying to recognize these beautiful qualities in you and share with others in the same way. Your beauty, charm and grace will not be forgotten. Thank you for being my Aunt Georgie and for seeing my beauty — even at times when I lost any sense of feeling beautiful due to the challenges of my health. I am sorry Aunt Georgie that I did not get to see you one last time before you passed away. Please know that although time has passed since we last saw each other, I can still hear your voice and feel the warmth of your smile just like I saw you yesterday. You will be missed. Please rest in peace beautiful child of God. I imagine the love I felt from my Aunt is the same love God feels for us. Let us not forget amidst our challenges, the people God puts in our life as love and light to overcome any darkness.
Thanks for letting me share about my special aunt with you. I hope my nieces and nephew will one day be able to say that I taught them a few things about life too. What kinds of things do you feel you are teaching others with your way of being? Do you have an “Aunt Georgie” that has been a source of light for you?
Blessings, light and love,
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