A while ago we buried our late Dad’s sister, my Auntie Sylvia (pictured here with her brother my Uncle Noel at her 80th birthday party). She was 82 when she died (but she really wasn’t) hardly a wrinkle, the greatest smile, always in a good mood, she was full of life all of her long life.
She lost her husband to cancer, at the young age of 38 and raised her 4 young children alone. As children we spent every Christmas night in her home for a big family party with food, drink, cousins and a singsong under the tree in her bay window where my sister and I would fight to reach the top note.
During the funeral my 2 sisters and I sang together. It was a strange experience performing in front of my aunts, uncles, cousins and extended family as they wept with sadness for their loss. I tried to pretend at times that I was singing at a stranger’s funeral just so that I could keep it together enough to sing. We laughed too as my cousin’s speech took us all back in time to childhood and reminded us of Auntie Sylvia’s ability to talk for Ireland (a family gene I seem to have inherited).
There was 1 awkward moment as one of the ladies who helps out in the church and (takes her job very very seriously) stood in front of me while I sang the solo “The Arms Of The Angel” with my eyes closed, lost in the moment and completely unaware she was standing right in front of me with the communion bowl as I was the last one to serve. I finished the song and sat down shaking from the pressure and emotion of the moment only to have her thrust a communion wafer into my hand and stomp off up the church.
I cupped the wafer circle in my hand but quickly realised I couldn’t eat it as I’m coeliac so my sister quickly grabbed it and shoved it into her mouth. At this point the entire front row of grieving cousins burst into laughter. A lovely stress relieving moment for us all.
Later while standing at my Auntie’s graveside, my head bent to the sounds of sadness and loss around me I realised that it felt alien to feel sad when thinking about my Auntie Sylvia as she always made me feel happy, even just thinking of her made me feel good. You see she was one of those rare human beings who just was happy, she didn’t have to try, or work at it or find herself or bend herself into funny positions on a beach in Thailand while chanting to be happy, she just was happy.
When people said to her it must have been tough to raise 4 very young kids on her own she said it was great, that she loved every bit of it and of them. When you gave out about someone else she would remind you of that persons one redeeming quality, even if they only had one.
She packaged up chocolate and posted it far and wide to grandchildren in Seattle & Perth. If you were lucky enough to be in her company she would hold your face in her hands and kiss your cheek and tell you she loved you to bits.
She could defrost the coldest of hearts and taught me that being in your 80’s could mean being as vibrant as you are in your 30’s, travelling, dancing, enjoying & loving your life and all of the people in it. She has left me with the challenge to try to be happier.
I’m too grumpy and hormonal at times to even entertain picking up the batten and trying to continue where she left off, and I think her daughter Sylvia has that in hand, but I do intent to be always inspired by her happiness and aware of it every lovely day I get to have.