I like to write, it comes easily to me, but I’m sitting here staring at the screen wondering where I could possibly begin to write a tribute to Aunt Mary, who died a couple of weeks ago at age 92. Maybe I could talk about how smart and strong a person she was, but no, that’s not really where I want to go with this. I could talk about how much we all loved her, that is her 20 nieces and nephews, but that seems like a given. Calling her the matriarch of our family, which she was, sounds way too formal and stark, which she was not. I looked up to Aunt Mary and I saw her as an example of how to live life on your own terms.
When you were with Aunt Mary there was never any shortage of laughter. She called things as she saw them. Of course sometimes that was what was so funny. Even with that though, she was kind and accepting of others. She started out as a secretary and retired a partner in a company. When I was in high school and typing was an elective, she told me not to take typing. “No matter what, if you know how to type and you’re a woman they’ll think you’re a secretary” she told me. A few years ago, I reminded her that she had told me that. Her response was “Well that was pretty dumb now with computers”. But it wasn’t dumb at all. Even if my typing is lacking it was a great lesson for me in what the world was like out there. Not in a harsh or ugly sort of way but a realistic perspective.
Yes, Aunt Mary was a realist, but she also had that touch of Irish that led her to leave out any unpleasantness where family was concern. There’s no need to speak of that, now is there. But she wasn’t just our Aunt Mary, she was everyone’s Aunt Mary. It’s what our friends called her as well. Even in a sympathy note from a friend who said, “I’m sorry to hear about Aunt Mary’s passing”, she didn’t say your Aunt Mary. But I also would say everyone should have an Aunt Mary, meaning just like mine. She saw a painting of mine on my web site and told me she wanted to buy it and to send a bill with it when I shipped it to her. She followed it up with “and if you don’t charge me the full amount I’ll ship it right back to you!”
When her time to go was nearing, I decided to paint while waiting for the news that would soon be coming. I painted a sunrise thinking maybe just one more day Aunt Mary, just one more day. It was not to be. Her’s was a life well lived. She had friends all the way back to her childhood, I think that says a lot about a person. She traveled all over, tried new things and she kept telling me I was the modern day Georgia O’Keefe. When my mother was dying she told me I’d always miss her because she was my mother but Aunt Mary, I will always miss you too. When I’m uncertain what to do, I will continue to ask myself, what would Aunt Mary do, just as I have been doing the last year and a half. Just by her example she helped me through the worst time in my life and she never even knew it.