My Family

My Family
Here we all are!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Ode to Aunt Jo

A week ago my Aunt Joanne passed away.  I've been trying for the past week to put into words what Aunt Jo meant to me and to my family.  

When I was young, people who knew the Smith side of my family would call me little Joanne.  Not, as you might think, because my mother's name was JoAnn, but because I had an energy much like my Aunt Joanne.  She was full of energy and was athletic long before that was a "proper" activity for girls.

Aunt Joanne had many many fine qualities.  She was the hostess with the mostest, as we would say.  When she prepared a meal it was a thing of beauty.  I remember when we were together in New York, to take care of my dad as he was recovering from a bad infection, and I had flown out for a few days.  She made my dad a simple lunch of cheese, crackers and fresh fruit.  The way she arranged the foods on the plate and added a sprig of something or other made the simple meal a work of art.  As I commented on it she seemed surprised.  She made the common something special.  

She made my kids feel special as well.  She found out how much my Melissa loved horses and invited her to spend a couple weeks at her ranch.  Although Melissa was a little homesick, she had an amazing time.   Joanne filled her horse love to overflowing with lessons and non-stop time to ride, groom and just love on horses.

For my two youngest, Ella and Jacob, she was the grandmother they didn't have.  We were able to spend time in Idaho three of the last 4 summers.  When I gave them the choice of going to Y camp or going to Aunt Jo and Uncle Dick's house - there was just no choice for them.  Idaho won hands down. They absolutely loved being there, and I did too.

She made me feel special too.  My mom died when I was 19 and the older I got, the more time I was able to spend with Aunt Jo.  She filled a spot I hadn't realized was empty.  I was able to spend a few days with her this past Nov.  Unfortunately she ended up spending much of the time in the hospital.  She was more concerned that it was ruining our time together than about how she was doing physically. She had planned massages, something we were to do together, but insisted that I still go ahead with mine.  It was so very thoughtful, just what you'd expect.

Two and a half years ago when Melissa was married, Aunt Jo came to Minnesota.  It was a DIY wedding and even though she had only recently recovered from a serious lung illness, she couldn't wait to come. She helped me choose the salads and sent me some of her favorite recipes, which I will especially cherish now.  We spent the afternoon before the wedding preparing the salads and she helped, as she had helped so many family members so many times.

Along with her horses she loved her adopted state of Idaho.  She loved everything about Idaho and the BSU football team.  A year ago when I was out to visit by myself she had her royal blue and orange outfit on the night before a game, including the scarf she had made as she'd taken up knitting again as her energy level was lower.  She was never idle.

She was fiercely loyal to family.  Not just her nuclear family, but her extended family as well.  I knew something wasn't quite right this August when for the first time I didn't receive my usual birthday card.  She had never forgotten my birthday and mailed me a card even when I moved nearly every year for about 5 years.  She was always sure to get my new address and never missed my birthday.

One of our last conversations included a discussion about my cousin who had recently had brain surgery, but had complications and has been really struggling ever since.  It was so frustrating for Joanne that she was not able to go and help.  Doing, helping and supporting others both in a physical sense and in an emotional sense was who she was.

 Last Mother's Day I sent her a card which, unbeknownst to me, was really meaningful to her.  She pulled it out while I was there this summer and told me how much it meant to her.  My note read something to the effect that I learned much about unconditional love from watching how she treated others.  I hadn't even remembered what I had written, but she sure had and I'm especially grateful now that I sent that card.

Thoughtful, loyal, generous, giving, hospitable, caring, she loved greatly and greatly loved others.  I will miss you so much Aunt Jo and whenever I entertain you will be close beside me in spirit because no one could make people feel welcome and comfortable like you could.  Thanks for teaching me that and so much more.

No comments:

Post a Comment