My Aunt Jackie
(with my cousin, Kristen, who is basically my identical twin)
Oct. 25, 1952 - Oct. 10, 2011
Late Monday evening my sweet Aunt Jackie passed away. She was the youngest of my mom's five sisters and the mother to two wonderful children. She was one of the strongest women I've ever known and one of the most inspirational. A little sassy like my mom with deep southern roots just like my grandmother and all of her daughters. An incredible mother and a hard worker with a passion for hosting family Thanksgiving get togethers and having long late night phone dates with her sisters and friends.
My cousin, Kristen, is two years younger than me and my cousin, Brian, is two years older. Since I was sandwiched in the middle I spent so much time with my cousins and aunt as a child. Some of my favorite memories are building forts out of blankets in their living room and sitting down for a wonderful Thanksgiving meal with a house full of my family members (even though she usually burned the bread and set the smoke detector off!).
I remember the word cancer first entering conversation regarding my aunt around the time I was a sophomore in college. Its hard to pinpoint exactly when it happened because a battle with cancer and all that entails sometimes makes time seem to stop and so many things can change and happen in such a short amount of time. My aunt was a fighter. She was strong willed and stubborn, a character trait of the women on my mother's side of the family. She endured many surgeries and treatments and stayed strong for a very long time. Basically, she was a rockstar.
It wasn't until the last year that her condition became much worse. I visited her in the hospital with my mom last Fall and know she had been in much pain since then. Prior to this she was able to celebrate my grandmother's 90th birthday and help plan the surprise party that hosted over one hundred guests. What a spectacular milestone for my grandmother but it was also a time where all five daughters and their mother could be together. This is something that doesn't happen often as my mom's sisters are very spread out. About once every eight to ten years all five will be in the same place at the same time for a big event and I am so grateful they had this opportunity last year. I'm also grateful that I was able to spend some quality time visiting with my aunt shortly before I moved here to New Jersey.
Our only comfort in the loss of someone who was such a wonderful and meaningful part of our lives is knowing that she is no longer in pain. There is a peace with knowing that she will never hurt again and knowing that she is in God's care. We are trying our best to celebrate her life and understand that this was the time God had chosen for her to return to him. My mother and grandmother at home have a wonderful network of support and Corey and his family and my friends have been wonderful to me here. However, my heart is breaking for my cousins and I ask that if you are religious, please say a prayer for them.
I know there are a lot of emotions associated with any loss however I feel like a battle with cancer can be especially hard. My heart breaks knowing that my aunt won't see my cousin, Kristen, graduate college or help her pick out her wedding dress. And knowing she won't be able to dance with Brian on the day that he gets married. Or see her grandchildren somewhere down the road. After watching her battle cancer and stay strong for so many years, there is a feeling of frustration and defeat associated with knowing she won't be physically present for those things. And that knowing that the fight is over and cancer won. It would be selfish to wish she could be with us any longer because she was in a huge amount of pain and not her vibrant, sassy self so at the same time there is peace with knowing that she doesn't have to fight anymore.
This is my Aunt Jackie. Strong. Determined. Inspirational. Dedicated. Loving. Daughter. Wife. Friend. Aunt. Sister. Mother to two wonderful children - who she raised to be phenomenal adults. She will leave a void in the lives of all who knew her. We'll be missing her funny stories, great sense of humor, and the late night phone dates. Aunt Jackie - you were one incredible woman and we love and miss you with all our hearts.