Remembering Aunt JeanRemembering Aunt Jean

My Aunt Jean died two years ago today. (Had she been aware of the date, she would have been tremendously angry and indignant that her life ended on Halloween!)

When I went to tell Jean’s friends at her active retirement community that she had died from complications related to pneumonia, one man who always sat with her at breakfast exclaimed, “Jean was the crankiest old woman I’ve ever known!” Then, his voice thick with emotion,  he added, “But I loved her, and I will miss her!”

Jean had moved from Florida in 2006 to be close to us after her husband died. For ten years, she was an active member of our family. She had a sharp mind and a wicked sense of humor. Jean didn’t have children, so she had never been humbled by parenthood. She had a quick temper, and she tended to be judgmental and unforgiving. She had zero patience with laziness, sloth, and inefficiency.

She was a hard-ass, no doubt. But there are two things that I really loved and miss about Jean. She was an enthusiastic listener, and she was deeply appreciative of every act of kindness. I have to admit, whenever I called, and every time my husband and I picked her up to go somewhere or brought her over to our house to participate in a family event, I thought I was doing it for her benefit. Now that she’s been gone for two years, I realize how much pleasure I got from doing those things for her.

Alex and I grow a lot of flowers in our garden, and throughout the growing season, we used to take her a fresh bouquet every week. Every time we came through the door with flowers, she would clap her hands, exclaim how beautiful they were, and thank us over and over for the visit and the bouquet. 

Last spring when we brought in the first batch of roses from our garden, I cried. I couldn’t think of one other person we could give the flowers to who would be as excited or as appreciative as Jean. I missed the joy I got from giving them to her. 

She was the last of the “old people” in our family to die. Now Alex and I have stepped into that role. I hope we will always remember to make the time to listen attentively and to express our gratitude when our kids and grandkids do something kind for us. I also hope they will discover how giving a little time and attention and bringing happiness into the lives of others will enrich their own.

If you’d like to see a video of me visiting with Aunt Jean about one of her holiday trips to the farm, please click here: Thanksgiving Whiskey