Funerals are difficult for me, and I tend to avoid them, if possible. I don’t like all of the sadness. It makes me terribly uncomfortable, and it reminds me of other traumatic events I would like to forget. I prefer to remember the good times I had with the person who has passed. But smiling isn’t necessarily appropriate in the eyes of others during such a time. So, I try to avoid doing so, out of respect.
Today, however, I was prepared to attend the funeral of a beloved friend, neighbor, and family member. My mother was not feeling up to it though, so we didn’t make the drive. I decided I better stay close, in case she needed me. (Mom had a total shoulder replacement a month ago.)
I regret not being there for my sister-in-law and her dear extended family, my nieces, and brother, etc. Nonetheless, I am thankful that the last time I saw my Aunt MaryAnn (as my sisters and I affectionately called her) was several months prior, at her 90th birthday party, surrounded by her family and friends and smiling.
Aunt MaryAnn’s smile and laugh were infectious. She loved having a good time and encouraging others to do the same. She and Uncle Don, my sister-in-law (who was only a teenager at the time and not yet married to my brother) and her sisters, and their various pets lived in a two-story home behind our property. I would often walk back to their house (along with the family dog to protect me from snakes). It was a happy time. Aunt MaryAnn and Uncle Don were always warm and welcoming, and Donna and Lori were always sweet and patient with me. In the summertime, they always seemed to have frozen Coke on hand, and I recall having hot dogs over there more than once. Aunt MaryAnn was always sure to offer me something. She was famous for asking her guests “Are you hungry?” I honestly can’t remember a time I didn’t see her smiling. She was a delightful woman!
Once, while visiting Aunt MaryAnn and Uncle Don, I was accidentally bitten by a neighbor dog who was actually snapping at another dog. Regardless, I was nicked on top of the head and started bleeding everywhere. Aunt MaryAnn was quick to spring into action, getting me an ice pack and having Uncle Don drive me home while she held the ice pack on my head and comforted me. I remember her kindness vividly. I suppose she wasn’t smiling during that fiasco, but I truthfully only remember her holding me in the car and trying to make sure I was okay. I also don’t remember feeling scared, despite not having my parents present. That, in and of itself, is remarkable and something I won’t soon forget.
Growing up, we had many wonderful neighbors who were more like family, and I am grateful for all of them and the positive impact they had on me. I can’t imagine not having had Aunt MaryAnn around then, and she will always remain a joyful part of my life. It’s certainly sad that she is no longer with us, but I am so happy that she is now pain-free and smiling once again in heaven. I have no doubt that she, Uncle Don, Grandpa Hann, and my dad are all celebrating being reunited. And that makes me smile. 😊