Last week, we found out that my Aunt Ellen lost her battle to cancer. I was heartbroken. Ellen was a true gem, the kind of person that lit up a room, a woman with a heart of gold and a gentle soul. I know that these are the kinds of things you say about someone who has passed away, but it's all true for Ellen. She was special, period.
I never got to say goodbye. I knew that she was not doing well, she had entered into hospice care just a few days before. My plan was to write her a letter and drop it at her doorstep, since I knew that she wasn't doing well and may not be up for a visit. But I didn't write it in time. She passed away before I could follow through.
And so I spent the next few days feeling both sad of her loss and guilty that I did not get to say what I wanted to say to her.
Last night, I had a horrible dream about it. The dream was that I was at her funeral, except...she was there. And she came to me and told me that she was still alive, and that I could say goodbye. But I couldn't- the words just wouldn't come out. All I could do was cry.
I woke up feeling extra down, like I had missed my chance again.
And so that is why I have come to this blog, to say goodbye to our dear Aunt Ellen. I know a public blog post is not the same as a private, heartfelt letter, but it is my hope that these words will somehow make it to Ellen's Heaven.
It's no surprise that as a little girl I was drawn to Ellen. That's the kind of person she was- people wanted to be around her. They wanted to hear her jokes, her hearty laugh, and to grasp a piece of her kindness and wisdom to hold onto for themselves. We grew close on one of our trips to Florida- she kept me laughing the whole time. I once had a sleepover at her house, and I just remember feeling so special and loved around her. She took a deep interest in me, even though we had no blood relation. My favorite thing about her (and her two sisters) is how head over heels they were with my brother. They adored him (for good reason!) and they loved to embarrass him with hugs and kisses. I always laughed when Ellen and her sisters would seek him out in a room full of people. I remember watching them at his wedding, they had the absolute time of their lives.
The last time I saw Ellen was almost a year ago, at my Uncle Mike's funeral. She walked into the room, immediately found me and told me she had a present for me. It was a pack of napkins with a cute design on them. She had apparently seen them and thought of me. It was a small gift, but it meant something. She was thinking of me.
At that same funeral, my sister and I kept looking for "The Kissing Aunts". We so desperately needed the comfort of Mary Ann, Peg, and our sweet Ellen. All three of them are incredibly special women, and we just needed to be around them, to feel their warmth and love.
I'm a lucky girl to be surrounded by so many strong women in my life. Growing up I had many role models. Ellen was one of them. I admired her confidence, humor, zest, and passion. If I could go back, I would change a few things. I would make a point to connect with Ellen more. I would ensure she knew how loved she was by me and by my entire family.
Ellen, I know that wherever you are, you brought the party with you. I know that you are sprinkling that sunshine and smile. You left quite an impact on many hearts back here on Earth, and so many of us are better, sillier, more loving people because we knew you. You really were a gem, and I feel lucky that I was able to know you. I adored you, and I always will.
Moving forward, I want to make a point to tell people how deeply I love and appreciate them. I know, again, that is something everyone says, but we don't always follow through. But I don't want to lose anyone else without them knowing how special they are. Everyone should hear about the impact they have made on others lives. I don't know how we can get better at this, but we must.
My challenge for you, my friends, is to tell three people in your life that you love them. Right now.
Thank you for reading about my sweet Ellen. May she rest in peace.