My Aunt Peggy had a sudden and brutal stroke on Friday, from which she never recovered. Difficult decisions were made, texts and phone calls flew across the U.S., and she died surrounded by those who loved her, and whom she loved.
For Aunt Peggy loved ferociously, deeply, and with all she had.
I only remember meeting her once, but I was 14 and deeply impressionable. Her hugs gripped me and filled that emptiness that (I think) all teen girls have. Her laugh invited everyone to laugh with her, as is the way with my father’s family. She taught me how to peel carrots, p’shawing gently and under her breath at the idea that a healthy, intelligent girl of my years would not already know.
She cared for my Grandma Katy until professional care was required, and even then she was the one who remained, and who knew Katy, and could share stories when I wrote letters asking my aunt about her mother, my grandmother. Aunt Peg, Aunt Peggy, was in some ways a mother to all of us including to her own parents.
When I graduated from college, she was among the most proud. Until the needs of her own family grew too great, I remember occasional cards and notes, and that tone of kindness that could be felt even through pen and paper.
I had hoped, in a long-planned trip this week, to visit with her and with the others. Their homes are not far from where my brother and I will be visiting. And now we will still visit, and hold tighter, close to where my father will be saying goodbye to his sister, the touchstone of our family.
Even though time and distance and my own family have prevented visiting before this trip, and even though we were not close geographically – my heart still feels an emptiness where the possibility of her hugs, her laugh, once were. The aching absence of potential reunion weighs heavy in me today, as the vacuum does for all who knew her.
There are so many synonyms for a person’s absence, so many words we use to describe the missing-ness of someone who is no longer with us. We who remain are left with the pieces to try to describe and define what it is – when really, how do you put words to that which is gone?
I believe that Aunt Peggy is in heaven, and there she will reside with her parents and her brother, my Uncle Jack, swapping stories and sharing love. And we will share the stories of their lives, rebuilding a shell to cover the exhausting gap that abides. Until we meet with them again, the sharing and the remembering will offer comfort, as she so often did for us.