Someone very dear to me was placed under Hospice care this week, which has me thinking back over the past 33 years. I first met her a few months after Tim and I were engaged. I came to California to visit him during my Spring Break in March of 1984. She had just celebrated her 50th Birthday the previous November. Not only did Carolyn welcome me into her home, she welcomed me into her heart as well. She treated me as if I was already a member of the family. The night before I flew home, she came to my room, gave me a gift, hugged me warmly and told me how much she enjoyed meeting me. The look on her face was so full of love. My heart was touched by her kindness.
During every major event of our family’s life, Aunt Carolyn was there. She flew to Colorado for our wedding; was one of the first family members to meet and hold my newborn babies; attended my sons’ Birthday Parties and a few baseball games; and hosted us at her home on numerous occasions. She always gave such thoughtful and practical gifts. Every time she came to our house, she brought us something, like some fruit or some flowers she had picked up at the Farmer’s Market that week.
I’ve realized through the years that a lot of the things I do I learned from Carolyn. When entertaining, I learned from her to place a strip of paper in the bottom of each serving dish detailing what is to go into that dish. I air dry my dishwasher dishes, organize my pantry and keep a plastic bag for that day’s vegetable peels in my sink the way she did. More importantly, I try to make time for people and my family the way she did. I noticed through the years that she made sure to spend equal time with all three of her kids and grandkids, which was a lot with her daughters living far away.
She spent her time serving others by volunteering, which also made an impact on me. She could have used all of her free time for herself, but instead, she chose to serve others. She went through many hard things in her life, but I did not ever hear her complain about any of them! She always bounced back from each trial that entered her life and carried on.
A special recent memory was a few Christmases ago when she and her son, daughter-in-law and grandkids drove down the day after Christmas to celebrate Christmas with us and Tim’s Mom, who was visiting. We had lunch, opened gifts, then sent her into the guest room to take a short nap before heading down to the beach. She was filled with delight to be with all of the family and as I escorted her to the guest room, she exclaimed “I don’t want to miss anything!” I promised her that we wouldn’t do anything fun until she was up from her nap.
One time recently when we visited her in the nursing home-like setting she lives in, she said aloud “I’ve had a very ordinary life.” I exclaimed “No you haven’t! You’ve had an extraordinary life! You raised three kids who are wonderful adults; you made sure to always visit all of your kids and grandkids; and the things you have taught us has made an impact on all of our lives.” At first she looked at me with a disbelieving look in her eyes, but as I insisted that she has led an extraordinary life, I saw a the corners of her smile turn up ever so slightly.
Aunt Carolyn will always hold a special place in my heart. My life is better for having known her. Her legacy of love, unselfishness, faithfulness and devotion will live on through the lives of her kids, grandkids and now great-grandkids.