Today, September 11th, is my Aunt Jean's birthday. This birthday is different from the rest, but still worth celebrating. Aunt Jean (or AJ as I had recently started calling her) passed away in August after a long, courageous battle with breast cancer.
She was a wonderful aunt to me & my sisters. I have lots of great memories of times spent with her - camping in the mountains, swim meets in Richmond where my cousins were competing, holidays, birthdays, weddings, births, summers, amusement parks trips. The list goes on, my memories extensive.
I'm not sure there was woman who loved her family more deeply. And it struck me in the end how much she wanted to hold on to the life that was simply, her family. There's no denying the sadness in her passing, the feeling of loss that we all feel without her here physically. That's why I know the ceremony she planned out for her passing was really for everyone else. I believe that everyone thinks WE (her family) did it for her, to remember her and celebrate her life, the things and people she loved. But it was really something she did for us. From the upbeat music selected by my uncle, to the reading from my cousins, to the remembrances from family & friends, her hand was guiding it all... AJ gave that to us so we'd all know how cherished we were in her life.
As hard as it is to wrap my thoughts around the idea of AJ not being here... i know she's still with us. Much more than in our hearts, she's in our every day. She's watching over the family whatever they are doing; she's comforting those she loves as they grieve for her; she's laughing with her grandchildren as they play and she's celebrating her birthday as we all remember the wonderful life she led.
Today, I plan to send my birthday wishes to AJ. I know she has everything she needs where she is right now, but I think she'd appreciate the "old age" joke I have for her too...