For some reason, I got rather nostalgic last night thinking about people I’ve been close to who have died. Maybe it was the migraine getting to me. In any case, it’s not a bad thing to remember.
Danny was a year younger than I and lived “next door” to us. Actually, it was around the corner, but since there were no other houses between ours, it was pretty much like it was next door. Danny was a well-loved and well-respected professor of Old Testament as an adult. But as a kid . . . I remember the time that the three of us who waited at our bus stop (me, Danny and my brother) decided to hide in the bushes until the bus went past and then told our parents that the bus had come early and we had missed it. Of course, they were all working and didn’t have time to drive us to school (a good 15 mile drive), so we got the day off! I also remember going to his family’s house every year for Christmas (they came to ours for Thanksgiving – it worked out well). And since we lived in Florida, we could usually wear shorts! Danny died about a year ago from a heart attack.
I didn’t know my Aunt Annie very well. She lived in Minneapolis during much of my life and then in Dallas. What’s kind of funny is that I’m geographically closer to her kids now than to any of my other cousins since most of them still live in the South. What I remember most about Aunt Annie is how much she and my mom look alike. When I was down South a year and a half ago for another aunt’s funeral, I got to see Aunt Annie again – and the similarities between her and my mom were striking. Aunt Annie died this past fall.
My Aunt Alma was my favorite aunt (narrowly edging out Aunt Dot – more on her later). Her first husband died while I was in high school. In fact, I missed taking the PSAT because of the funeral and never investigated how to take it again, so I never got to see if I’d qualify for a National Merit Scholarship. Anyway, when I started college, Aunt Alma lived in a trailer and I would visit her on holidays since she was only about 2 hours away from LSU, but my parents lived 15 hours away. After my sophomore year, Aunt Alma remarried and moved out into the country. I visited her once and we had squirrel stew with dumplings for lunch. It tasted like chicken in case you’re curious. But it was definitely squirrel – little tiny bones. Aunt Alma was diagnosed with cancer about 2 or 3 years before she died. We were able to visit her a month or two before she died and she was able to meet the kids. Actually, we had been there the year before and the kids had picked blueberries and we made them into pancakes. It’s been over ten years since Aunt Alma died, but it seems like yesterday. I have her set of china now displayed above my cabinets.
Aunt Dot. What can I say about Aunt Dot? The woman was crazy! She was funny and loud and loved me and my brother. I discovered when I rode with her and Uncle Travis to New Orleans one day that there was a side of her I didn’t like – she and Uncle Travis argued over everything! And the driving made it worse! But, she taught me how to sew when I would visit in the summer and helped me to make a sundress and a denim skirt. I learned not to ask her real name – she was a little sensitive about it, and honestly, I don’t blame her. She died while I was in college – the same summer that Aunt Alma got married, I believe.
Uncle Bill was the next to youngest of my mom’s 11 siblings. Mom was the youngest, so the two of them were very close. I remember visiting him and his family whenever we went to visit family in Mississippi. They had a pool in one of the houses where they lived which we just loved! My most recent memory was when we were visiting a few years ago and my dad was teaching Wild Man and my nephew to fish. While Dad was trying to help my nephew get his hook baited and everything started, Wild Man caught a fish. My sister-in-law and I were the only other two adults around. So, I went down to the edge of the pond and helped Wild Man unhook his fish, throw it back, and then baited the hook with a cricket for him. Wild Man threw the line out and the fish (which were pretty small) ate the bait. About that time, Uncle Bill pulled up and stepped in to help. He told me I was hooking the cricket wrong – you were supposed to hook them behind the head instead of through the abdomen like I was doing. I handed over fishing responsibilities to Uncle Bill since I didn’t like dealing with crickets anyway. The fish ate the bait off the hook that Uncle Bill baited too! So, he took Wild Man to another spot on the pond where he had good luck earlier in the week, but this time the fish weren’t biting! Uncle Bill died almost two years ago from a heart attack.
Last year, a ten year old boy died from cancer. He was the son of one of my partners in medical practice – in fact, I delivered his older sister and him. I remember what an adorable child he was. The family moved about thirty miles away, into a larger city, partly to get the services he needed because he had some developmental delay. Right after they moved, he was diagnosed with a muscle cancer. Thankfully, it was pretty treatable and he was doing better within a year or so. But, it turned out that he had a rare genetic illness (that I’d never heard of before this) that made him predisposed to cancer and he had developed a cancer in his brain. I don’t remember the timeline of things, but I remember that he died right before Easter last year. I think this was one death that impacted me more than anything else. Why would God allow a ten year old kid to die? I had a number of my patients who died, but they were almost all older. Having a ten year old boy who was well-loved by his family and community die just seems unfair.
But, really, these all seem pretty unfair. My Uncle Bill was an active, busy man with horses who should have had lots of time left on this earth. Danny certainly is missed by his wife and kids, who are still in high school. So, I don’t have any answers – just more questions. I’m going to need a few weeks to spend with Jesus in Heaven to ask all my questions!