This afternoon, members on the Lauderdale side of my family gathered to celebrate my Aunt June. She recently turned 82 years old. For the past five years, today’s party has been a joint celebration for Aunt June and her older brother, Rex, who both had July birthdays. Sadly, my uncle passed away earlier this year, making this afternoon’s gathering more poignant and even more precious.
My aunt is, in fact, the last surviving sibling in her family that at one time included my father and her twin sister, Jean. They were the six Lauderdales, children of my grandparents Dennis and Grace. One sister died in a tragic accident, as a toddler. I don’t think the family ever quite recovered from little Margaret’s death. My grandmother could not speak of her youngest child and my uncle always referred to her as “poor little feller”. My father was deeply impacted by the loss of his baby sister and carried a misplaced sense of guilt over her death his entire life.
There was no sadness in my aunt today however, as we loved on her and sang happy birthday. This kind and sweet woman lives very much in the present moment. With age, her recent memories have begun to slip away or get tangled in her mind. And yet her spirit remains bright and pure, like a child’s. She is gracious and grateful, responding to affection with sweet hugs and kisses.
I appreciate her children, my cousins Pam and Alan, continuing what has become a treasured family tradition. We decided years ago, as we gathered at another family member’s funeral to say goodbye, that we needed to honor the living while they yet lived.
I am so glad that we put actions with that intention. Saying goodbye to Uncle Rex a few months ago, there were no regrets, no we should haves. I hope we have Aunt June here with us for many more years, to love and honor and celebrate. She is our beautiful Lauderdale matriarch. Her very presence inspires me to seize each moment and live it fully.
Happy birthday, dear one. I love you!