My Aunt Diana passed away on July 4th. She was quietly, unobtrusively, but undeniably a bad-ass woman. Though, as common in many families, I only really saw her at holidays and major family functions, she was and remains a role model for me of strength and independence. She was a single mother of four who worked full-time but somehow still managed to raise amazing kids, maintain a household and generally keep it all together. From time immemorial, she hosted our family Thanksgiving every year. Until I became an adult, I never realized the magnitude of that task. Though I have the help of a spouse who is a far better cook than I will ever be, the thought of hosting a sit-down formal dinner for 20+ gives me anxiety. But despite a schedule between work and home that I can’t even fathom, Auntie Diana hosted it every year. The only exception was the year that she suffered a near-fatal brain aneurysm.
That year, and only that year, my Mom hosted Thanksgiving at our house. I don’t remember the exact year, but I was young enough to wear a pilgrim costume in complement to my sister’s Indian costume, and old enough to be eternally embarrassed about it, so I’d guess pre-teen. Her survival of the aneurysm at all, is testament to her toughness. But the aftermath is where I believe she showed her true strength.
It would have been so easy to let depression and frustration get the better of her in those early years, when despite perfectly clear thoughts, the pathway between brain and mouth was damaged, making verbalization incredibly slow and difficult. But she persevered, slow and difficult be damned. Also, though she no longer had the use of her dominant arm, she trained herself to paint with the other hand and grew into quite an accomplished artist.
For her limited mobility, Auntie Diana received help from a couple of other strong women, my cousins. Her daughter, Alicia, an architect, designed a glorious handicapped accessible house so that Auntie Diana could get around more easily in her wheelchair. Her other daughter Tammy quit her job and learned to be Diana’s full-time live-in caretaker. Together, the whole family pulled together to make their new circumstances work so that Auntie Diana could have a very happy and full life. They even managed to continue hosting the annual family Thanksgiving!
I am blessed to be surrounded by such strong female influences in my life. Though I didn’t see her often, I will miss Auntie Diana. She was a strong and beautiful person that will be missed by many, especially her very close family. I am glad that we had so many years to share with her, but I am confident that she is where she is supposed to be now. I was comforted by a dream that I had the other night where I saw Auntie Diana at a backyard cookout on a sunny day, sharing a laugh with her mother/my grandmother, Grammy Lamy (another bad-ass woman who passed a few years ago). I imagine the two of them toasting marshmallows and laughing heartily, as they were both known to do. Love and miss you both!