How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.
My Aunt Carol married my Dad's little brother, Jim, in 1959. I was born in 1956, so I have known Carol all my life. They lived in the same house they bought just after they got married, and raised five children there. Jeff came about ten months after they got married. The identical twins were born on Jeff's first birthday. Carol never EVER knew she was having twins, until the first one came out and they told her she wasn't done. Sue, the fourth child, had to be removed with forceps, and is still affected by it. She has severe epilepsy, and mental disabilities, which made it almost impossible for Sue to leave home, and Carol took care of her every single day of her life, and I am sure made her breakfast the morning of her surgery. Sally, the miracle baby, was born ten years after Jeff, and has been a joy for everyone.
Carol, who married Jim just after she graduated from high school, convinced all four of her kids (that were able) to go to college. She was always encouraging, always so funny, and so full of spunk and love, it is no wonder she raised some awesome kids.
When Sally was in High School, she went to Germany for a year as an exchange student. Neither Jim or Carol had ever been on an airplane, but wanted to go see Sally. They asked me if I would go, and drive them around Europe. I jumped at the chance, and drove them all over Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France and Belgium for three weeks. We were on a mission to find the gravesite where Carol's uncle was buried after dying in the Battle of the Bulge. We found him in a gravesite in Northern Belgium, and all cried, knowing we were the first family members who had ever even known where he was buried. That moment of Carol seeing her Uncle's grave will be with me forever. So will the trip we all took, cruising all over Europe.
Carol went into the hospital yesterday for routine (?) heart surgery. Everything went well, and her daughter even called my Dad to say that Carol was resting comfortably. Within an hour, she had died. My heart is broken. The world has lost a magnificent woman, one who influenced all of us, with her heart of gold, and her devotion to all of us.
I am so glad that I went to see her and Sue this past summer. Carol lost her husband Jim, earlier in the year, after a LONG illness, and I had never seen her so content. Jim was not an easy man to deal with, but their family was OK, because Carol took the brunt of Jim's behavior. Carol was happy, and looked fit and better than I had seen her in a long time.
She meant the world to me. She made me realize that if you set your mind to something, you can accomplish almost anything. One of her kids has a PhD, two have Masters degrees. These are the offspring of a woman who had never had anyone in her family go to college.
She was a small town girl, with wisdom far beyond what most have.
I am sure my cousins are devastated today. She was their north star. I know I have lost a big piece of my heart today, and am forever grateful that she has been such an important part of my life.
I will miss you always, Aunt Carol.
For the rest of you, spend your love with abandon, and know that we can lose anyone at any time. Always live like this is your most cherished day.