When I was a child, I had six aunties. Through divorce and the passage of time, I now have only one. We farewelled one of my aunties last week, taken from her loved ones far too soon and without any warning. The swiftness of her passing has left her family in a daze, which is a state of mind that I fear will linger for many months or years to come.
I am an aunty to three nephews and one niece, who is also my god-daughter. I’m also “aunty” to about eight other kids who are no blood relation but whose use of the term “aunt” has mostly be thrust upon them over the years by long-standing friendships… and by needy old me. One of these ragamuffins is also my god-son so I guess that makes about 10 or 12 children who are in my life and whose lives, God willing, I may have some tiny influence on over the years. Not a bad thought at all for a “childless” singleton.
The passing of two aunties on one side of my family in just six months has smacked our proud clan around like never before. Indeed, the funeral service this week was held in the same venue where everyone had gathered to farewell another beloved woman just a few short months ago. The sadness was palpable as sons and daughters, husbands and brothers, and grandchildren and cousins gathered once more to say goodbye to a vivacious woman who loved life and lived it well.
Later on that night, while celebrating her life with quite a few drinkies, we realised that while this year there’s been two deaths in our family, it’d been some 25 years since the last one. A quarter of a century, during which time the children became adults, got married and started families of their own (well, apart from me, but I am still the youngest) and then all of a sudden (it seems to me) the cycle of life comes full circle and we’re all much older than our parents were when they had us, and now it’s our turn to say goodbye to them.
We also worked out that some of us hadn’t seen each other for decades. Such is the way of the global world these days I guess. Nonetheless, gathering for a funeral gives you a chance to say farewell to someone, regardless of whether they had more relevance in your past than your present. It is your shared familial history and the vivid memories of much happier times that you reminisce over. We spent hours talking about the past and sharing funny anecdotes but most of all we just spent time being together, sometimes saying nothing at all. Families are the very best place for things like that I find.
Of the three women our fathers originally married, only one is left and she has Alzheimer’s. It’s a harsh reality to accept but I suppose we don’t really have much choice in the matter. This is the way life is and if we live long enough, it is also the natural order of things – even though it still sucks big-time. I guess our family was blessed for those 25 years to not have to say goodbye to anyone out of order, we just didn’t know it at the time. We do know, however, that we will see each other again much sooner and for no other reason but to sit down close together to talk.
So, this is my ode to aunties. Those crazy women (me included) who let us get away with too much when we’re young, and who are still there for us years later when perhaps our own mothers are not. They’re the women who will have our backs until the day we die. We can confide in, and laugh and cry, with them, and they’re the ones we’ll always think of with love in our hearts when the Mother Nature eventually comes to claim back her own. That’s just the way it is so we might as well as have as much bloody fun with them as we can in the meantime.
And like my sister said last week to her teenage son, my nephew, before I boarded a plane to come home “Hug your aunty, bud. One day, you might not see her again”, maybe the next time you see one of your aunties, you should do the same. Or better yet, how about just giving her a call for no reason other than to say “Hello, remember me?”