Thursday, April 15, 2010

“Aunt Hi” We found out on December 5 that we were going to Kenya the following August, but we didn’t tell anyone right away except of course my husband. The next day, work wasn’t too busy and everyone was finished by five for a change. It was quiet and I thought I would spend a few minutes cleaning my cupboards before I left for the day.

My phone rang, which since it was afterhours, probably meant it was a personal call.

“Hello?” I answered.

“Chris”, my mom was out of breath, emotional. “It’s Aunt Helen. “

“What is it?” I prompted her.

“I called for the ambulance, but I think she’s already gone.”

“I’ll be right there.” I threw my stuff back in the cupboard, grabbed my purse and headed out the door.

Aunt Helen’s apartment was five minutes away. I could’ve been home already and 15 minutes away, or on my way home and unreachable entirely when Mom had called. But there I was, nearby, when the call came.

My mom’s older sister, Aunt Helen had always been like a second mother to me, another grandma to my children. When he was little Nick couldn’t pronounce the name Helen, so he called her “Aunt Hi”. She had been there for me when I was going through my divorce and had been indispensable to both my mom and me when my dad’s Alzheimer’s got too much for us. Her life had not been easy though, in addition to her husband she had buried two sons.

The morning of December 5 she had been talking about changing her health insurance plan. She had lunch with her son. Later that day she was taking pictures off of her walls, getting ready for some painting that was going to be done. She sat down in her recliner and went to sleep. And never woke up.

She had a son who had lived in Alaska and she had traveled there several times. He and his wife had also taken her on trips to Hawaii and Europe. She was an inspiration to me; if she could travel all these places when she was in her 60s and 70s, I could certainly go to Africa in my 40s.

For years, my mom and Aunt Helen had been involved with the Ladies Aid at church. One of their undertakings was making quilts for World Relief. The end of September, they would lay all the colorful quilts across the church pews for the congregation to enjoy, before packing them in boxes for their long journey to third world countries.

At Aunt Helen’s funeral, Pastor talked of her purpose in life, raising her family, cooking at the school, and caring for her husband when he became ill. And in later years, making the quilts had been her mission. Wow, again God hit me upside the head.

I had been regretting the fact that I hadn’t gotten a chance to tell her about our trip. But now from her new home in heaven, not only did she know about the trip, she would get to go with us.

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