A wish for More Birthdays

Photo by Larry Brown

This woman is my Aunt Helen, isn't she beautiful? Growing up I spent many days in Aunt Helen's kitchen, similar to many families, her kitchen was a gathering place. This is where she prepared great meals and on most holidays our entire family gathered at her home. I was extremely close to my aunt and her death was one of the first I experienced in my young life, over 20 years ago. Aunt Helen died of cancer and my last memory of her alive is seeing her hooked up to machines in a hospital bed, shrunken and sleeping. I didn't want to disturb her so I quietly left and she died later that week. There are many days when I regret not getting in that one last hug, the comfort of her warm embrace but carrying the memory of those hugs has to suffice.

The loss of my Aunt was tremendous. Not only was she my aunt but she was my godmother too and she took her responsibilities seriously. Every year on birthdays and holidays all of the kids in the family would receive savings bonds. She taught us at an early age the value of being financially savvy. She loved the finer things in life and saved her money to buy them. I don't believe that she ever used a credit card and every few years she would buy a new car - paid in full - so that she would not be indebted to anyone.

All of these things were simply amazing to me because my aunt was a domestic worker. She spent the majority of her days cleaning house and caring for a white family that lived in Sands Point -not far from our home. The photos of her wards lined her shelves, with places of honor right next to her blood relatives. I must admit that I sometimes felt a tinge of jealousy when I was young because her "children" had the benefit of spending so much time with the aunt that I loved so much. That jealously always quicklydissipated because Aunt Helen had enough love to go around.

In her death, as in life she was a caregiver. My aunt's savings helped to finance my education and I remember the day as a young undergrad a switch went off in my brain. I hadn't been applying myself to my studies, I was doing the minimum in school because I found it easy and could pull out a B in a pinch. But earning B's when you are an A student doesn't suffice and I realized that the hard work of my aunt paved the way to opportunity for me. I applied myself to my school work with fervor and on my next break from school I visited her grave site for the first time since her death 7 years prior and thanked her for all that she provided for me.

I've struggled for weeks trying to write the words that capture the beauty and effervescence of my Aunt Helen. She was a beautiful woman both inside and out, a lover of celebrations, always the life of the party and frequently the hostess. She lived a fairly long life, she died at 72 but there are many times when I wish she had more birthdays. Losing her to cancer made it easy for me to respond positively when I was asked to participate on the American Cancer Society's (ACS) Blogger Council. I want to support the efforts of the ACS, "a nationwide, community-based, voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service."

This post is dedicated to my aunt to celebrate her life and my wish that she had more birthdays. I encourage you to write a post dedicated to someone you love that was affected by cancer - perhaps write a post on your birthday dedicated to them. We want to raise awareness about this disease and I look forward to the day when we will all be writing celebratory posts rather than dedication posts.

Aunt Helen, I love you and miss you. Frequently I wish you had one more birthday for us to celebrate together.


blueviolet said…
It's clear to see that part of your auntie lives on in you! She would truly be proud.
Anonymous said…
You are an inspiration and I know your Aunt would be proud.
Anonymous said…
What a beautiful post your aunt would be beaming with pride!
strokeofliving said…
Beautifully written Renee! I miss my grandma too. This post is a wonderful tribute to you Aunt Helen.

My fondest memory of my grandma is laying my head on her lap in church when I was about 6 years old. She took the same seat at church every Sunday on the pews to the left second row from the front on the piano [not the organ] side. She was the church mother so I guess that entitled her to reserved seating. Every Sunday I looked for her because she never got upset with my boredom throughout the sermon [they didn't have children's church in those days]so I'd sit next to her wait until the choir finished their selection and would lay my head on her lap. Well she always caressed my head by softly stroking my hair. She was 92 when she passed and I have hundreds of memories and photos but THAT memory has always been the sweetest. [Smile] My mommy's mommy showing her ususl tenderness.

I miss visiting her and going to the Piggly Wiggly to shop with her for fresh produce.
I miss her praying with me
I miss brushing her beautiful long silver hair.
I miss the feeling of her large comforting bosoms against my small boobies when we embraced.
I miss sitting on her lap making her laugh.
I miss her voice.
I miss her scent.

Aww, damn, now I'm emotional. But thanks for asking us to share!
DarryleP said…
You may have struggled-- but you absolutely found the words to convey the beauty of your Aunt Helen, the love she had for you and the love you still have for her.
And it's a beautiful way to honor her memory by being part of the ACS blogger council. I'm honored to be on the council with you.
Anonymous said…
Oh Renee....what a wonderful woman Aunt Helen must have been. What a strong, beautiful woman. I love the picture of her; it says everything.

I'm so happy you are writing daily again. I do so love your writing.
What a beautiful, sweet post... thanks for sharing your memories. Aunt Helen was fly, for sure.
Petula said…
That's a lovely and touching post. She was a beauty!
SweetWICK said…
What a neat post. Thank goodness we're all one eternal soul, living endlessly throughout every piece of creation. Love your writing!
Kristen Andrews said…
beautiful post and your aunt would be very proud of you!
This was such a touching story...very inspirational and sweet. I'm sorry for the short comment, but I'm very moved right now!
Anonymous said…
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Anonymous said…
Beautiful post and tribute to your adorable "Aunt Helen". And that stove in the background...as soon as I saw it I said, "Oh My God, that's our stove". Well my great-grandmother's stove which still works in the house that my brother now owns. And yes, the pipe still goes up the wall.

Anyway,loved the post.
Angie Marion said…

what a beautiful post! I had tears in my eyes reading it! God rest your aunt's soul and God bless you! Losing someone is never easy!
Mocha Dad said…
What a wonderful post. My wife's aunt died of breast cancer and it had a profound affect on her life. Right now, one of my best friends is suffering from colon cancer. We do all can to eradicate this disease.
What a wonderful Aunt and what great lessons she taught you. I'm sure she is very content now.
Victoria said…
What a beautiful post - my aunt died of cancer fairly recently and she was such a dynamic person that I completely agree with your wish - that we could give all the wonderful Aunts, Uncles, Family Members, Friends - more birthdays.

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