Thursday, April 16, 2009

Life, Death, and Reflecting

Mary Lee Lemke 1948 - 2009
When writing to a friend yesterday about Aunt Mary, I wrote that there are things that happen in life that really take you on a journey through your own self and this is one of them for me.

Why does it take something as devastating as someone passing away to make me do a personal inventory of what I have done with my life, what I want to do with my life and what is getting in my way of getting things done? I get the whole "believe and achieve" concept but it is hard to get my mind around and really feel like I can move mountains so I am trying to reprogram myself in order to do the things I really want to do in life. I don't want to have any regrets at all when it is time for me to go.

My Aunt Mary was my biggest supporter when it came to my writing. I never shared too much of it with her, but she would always ask about my progress or what I was working on and also (a funny memory), she knew I am a horrible speller. When I was about 18-19 and dead set on being a writer some day, she sent me an electronic handheld speller the size of a mini calculator. I wasn't sure if I should have been offended or not, but when I spoke to her that Christmas I found out that it was really to urge me to keep writing and not to let the hang ups (like spelling) hold me back. I used that speller and my typewriter together all the time until the speller died and I moved out and got a computer with spellcheck. Aunt Mary was convinced she could tell when a writer used a word processor to write their books and I always wondered, how am I going to sneak that one by her if I ever get anything published?

Aunt Mary was the most compassionate person I know. She took care of a man named Preston for almost as long as I can remember and before that (I recently learned) she took care of a friend of hers during her final months before cancer took her life. Mary didn't worry about what was going to come next for people she was carrying for, she made each day with them as comfortable and as nice for them as she could and put her own needs aside. She was a lover of animals and always had a cat (her "familiar"). I remember Emily, her black cat, she was a permanent fixture with Aunt Mary for so long and we were all sad when she passed. Pita (another cat) died when we were in Connecticut one Thanksgiving. It was horrible, but I am glad we were there with Mary and she wasn't alone to bury Pita. Lydia had a short life, she was ill and as much as Mary tried to nurse her, her illness was stronger and took her too soon. Sasha (because she is sasha good cat) outlived Mary and now resides with my parents. Sasha was with Mary when she passed and I believe that Sasha is a little bit Mary now walking around my parents house. Last week when we first got there she was skittish but by our last night she let me hold her, cut her nails and then bathed me and Tim in our bed and slept next to my head the last night. I cried. I think it was sort of Mary saying good bye in a way. I know that might sound weird to people, but I think that in some way she is in the cat. My parents intend to keep her with them. At first they were not sure, but she is so good and sweet and such a tiny little lady that how can you say no? She has been through quite a lot these past couple weeks and she needs to stay with family. I think that is what Mary would want.

Mary loved to write letters! My love of thank you notes and checking in letters came from her. Mary wrote to my Dad when he served in Vietnam and that created a special bond between my Dad and her even though she was on this side of the globe fighting for the war to end. I will miss getting her letters and cards with her infamous signature of ML2 ("the Aunt").

There is so much more I could write and share about Aunt Mary, but there is also a lot I would like to keep to myself and I am sure you understand. I am glad that the last time I spoke with Aunt Mary I told her I loved her and as always, we had an epic conversation - there is no other way with Mary.

Never pass up an opportunity to let people know how you feel, whether it is positive or negative. Give people a chance to make things right if they hurt you, by approaching them with nothing but love and forgiveness no matter what. As with Aunt Mary, things happen suddenly and you never know when someone you love will be taken from you without warning so make the best of every moment.

PS - had to get all of this out in writing, stream of conscious style, thanks for reading.


Angela said...

I cried and I never even met Aunt Mary, such a sweet post. I'm happy that her cat is staying with your folks. Sasha is appreciative, I'm sure. I think everyone gets so caught up in the daily that they forget to look ahead and then a sudden event wakes you back up again, you know?
Love you,

The Maltese Kat said...

You are so sweet! You would have loved her!
XO - Kater

Ali said...

thanks for sharing this insight into your aunt, she sounds like a very special woman. I'm sure she'll continue to keep an eye on you all! may she rest peacfully x


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