Last Wednesday, I got a call from my dad. My Aunt Barb passed away unexpectedly from a flu related heart attack. I was left reeling. It was shocking and hard to even fathom. My aunt had never married and, therefore, treated my sisters and cousins much like her own kids. We were the pictures on her desk at work and the stories she told her girlfriends. She was the aunt that, as a kid, always bought us the cool toys and took us cool places. As an adult, she and I bonded over our mutual love of history, Downton Abbey, well manicured nails, and my 2 little boys. As I walked around our little home, I found signs of Aunt Barb everywhere --- a christmas card from her still sitting on the windowsill, an album she made Everett of her visit to our house and numerous toys and gifts she gave the boys. As the week went on, I thought about all the things that my aunt meant to me and I realized I wanted everyone else to know those things too.
On Monday, we celebrated her for the incredibly important woman that she was to us and I had the privilege to speak about her. I prayed all week that I would be able to honor her in the way she deserved and hope that I did. There is a void that she leaves that can't be filled. It's so hard, but I'm so thankful that I've had someone in my life who loved me like she did.
"Over the years, I've realized that there were things that I could always count on my Aunt Barb for.
First, I could always count on Aunt Barb being late. We knew that if she said she would be there at noon, that meant she would actually be there around 3. It was "Barb time." My dad often tells me I've inherited the late gene from her.
Another thing I could always count on my Aunt Barb for was expanding my horizons. Whether it was introducing me to Estee Lauder make-up as a teenager or getting me some kind of unique and artsy gift, she always had a way of taking me outside of my norm. Aunt Barb was always showing up to family events with some kind of intricate Martha Stewart or Paula Deen recipe. So, while the rest of us were making lasagna or cold cuts, Aunt Barb was bringing an arugula salad with pine nuts and goat cheese. The funny thing is that as I got older, I started asking for the recipes.
But more than anything, I could count on Aunt Barb to love me in very intentional ways. From attending countless soccer games and school events and graduations, she always showed up and supported me. As an adult, I knew that she loved me by the way she continued to pursue me --- she pursued me to spend time with her and came to visit us, even all the way in Philly (and you know how much she hated to drive). She sent letters and cards and little packages for the boys. When I'd talk about Aunt Barb Everett would say, "You mean Aunt Barb who always gets us fun things?"
When she first got a phone and could text me, she signed her texts like an email: LOL, Aunt Barb. Finally, after a few weeks, I had to ask her what was so funny. She let me know that when she wrote LOL she meant lots of love. I noticed after that she signed all her cards in that unmistakeable font with lots of love, Aunt Barb. And I think that phrase speaks a lot about her life. It reminds me of the verse in Ephesians that says, "Be imitators of God, therefore, and live a life of love."
Despite the heartbreak of losing her, I am grateful. I'm grateful for her influence in my life. I'm grateful for the 31 years I did have with her. And most of all, I'm grateful for God's intentional love for all of us and that because of Jesus, I get to see her again.
Love you lots Aunt Barb. We'll miss you terribly."