Friday, August 26, 2011

An open letter to my cousins, upon discovery of my aunt's death ...

Note: Death is a part of life. I know that.
But, it can still surprise you.
Especially when you're not expecting it. 
If there hadn't been an earthquake along the eastern seaboard earlier this week, I might still be in the dark.  Here's how I'm handling this ... 
for now.

Dear Carolyn & John,
Wednesday morning I placed a phone call to Evelyn’s cell phone. I thought I’d check in on her following the earthquake on Tuesday. I hadn’t spoken to her since February, so it seemed like a good excuse to call. We spoke a few times a year and the last time I saw her was in 2009.  

Aunt Evelyn and my darling husband, after having
dinner together in June 2009
Well, the message on her phone said it was no longer in service, which I thought was kind of odd. Then, I used Google to look her up, thinking I’d call her home phone.  Google’s search delivered her obituary.
I didn’t think I could be shocked by anything anymore. After all, I’m 60 years old now. I’ve seen it all, right? But, THIS shocked me. In a way I wasn’t expecting.
I don’t expect that anyone would think about letting me know if she was sick. It’s not like I was a big part of her life. However, she WAS a big part of mine. I wrote about our last visit on my blog and will include it with this letter for you to read. And, comment on, if you choose.
I had to go to the internet to find your mailing addresses. My husband, Manfred, found a phone number for Carolyn and I called Wednesday night and left a message, but have yet to hear anything back, so I’m writing.  Of course I’m hoping she’ll call on the weekend, so if you get this letter and you did call … I’ll be glad to hear from you.
I’d like to know what happened to Evelyn. I haven’t been able to think about anything else since making this discovery and I find these feelings to be very unsettling.  I cannot know how you must be feeling with this loss. She was a wonderful spirit and I feel lucky to have had her for my aunt. I imagine she was a dynamite mother and grandmother and I am truly sorry for your losses. I think you must miss her a lot.
I know I’m not the best in the world at writing letters. Before the internet, I was a decent letter writer and actually have kept all the letters that were sent to me. But, like so many people, I have come to use e-mail and Facebook to keep in touch with people. I’ve looked for relatives on Facebook where I know their last names, (including you guys) but not everyone is Facebook friendly, and I understand that. But, I’m here, now, writing … asking … what happened to my Aunt Evelyn?
When I told my darling husband, he was shocked. And, surprised. Being from Germany, his perception of family is very different from the reality of my family. He doesn’t understand how a big family like ours is not more in touch with each other. I’ve never been able to answer that question for him, because I really don’t know the answer. Or, maybe I do know the answer, but have to look for it in my own history. After all, I was the one who left Virginia and came to Florida, right? Had I stayed there, odds are good I would’ve seen family members more often. Or would I? See what I mean? It’s hard to pinpoint where things fell apart. I’m sure it’s mostly my responsibility, though. It always is …

Aunt Christine & Aunt Evelyn
My darling husband gave me one of those digital picture frames for Christmas a couple of years ago; you know, the kind where you can load your photos and it rotates the photos in the frame? It sits on my desk at work and among those rotating photos are a couple from the Pork, Peanut & Pine Festival that Samantha and I drove up for when she was 10-years-old. (She’s 24 now!) I had scanned these photos so I could use them in my digital frame. I like seeing pictures of “My Family.”
From left: Cousins Sharon, Carolyn & Constance
(our mothers are sisters) with Aunt Evelyn, right,
and Carolyn's daughter, Ashley, behind.

As I age, I’m finding that my family is more important than ever. After Evelyn’s revelation to me the last time I saw her (see my blog entry), it changed the way I thought about Mama. A lot.
She also gave me copies of photos of family members from a couple of generations back. I tried to express to her how much they mean to me. It seems like it took such a long time to realize who I really am … who I was all along … because of where I come from and who I come from. I don’t know if this is a normal transition from middle age to the “final act” of life, but it’s what’s been going on with me.  There are so many things I don’t know still, but I’m open to hearing stories and sharing memories, so, if this is something you feel like doing, you can be sure it would be appreciated by me. And, cherished.
I hope you’ll give all this some thought. And, I hope you’ll feel like writing or calling. I would welcome any opportunity to catch up with both of you, your families and your lives.  Thanks for taking time to read. I’m sorry I wasn’t around for Evelyn at the end of her life. I would like to have talked to her one more time.

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