My dear, dear aunt has passed away.

She was a maker like me. Her hands spent most of their time on this world creating beauty.

She had a boutique of her own when she used to live in DC, making French hand-sewn children’s clothing. She loved making her own lace. When she learned she was sick she sent me all her sewing supplies, including bags of high-quality yarn and her smocking machine. I started a sweater with some of the yarn last Christmas to be able to show her it was going to be used, but got frustrated and stopped. I guess I didn’t actually believe that she would really go, or I hope I would have worked harder. I thought I had more time.

She taught me how to make chocolate covered toffee. She gave me the box to take home and made me promise to share with the rest of the family. I didn’t. I hid the box and ate every piece, one each day. I think my parents probably knew – she must have mentioned it when they called? But no one said anything so maybe she knew I wouldn’t share, and didn’t tattle on me.

She let me live in her house for a week one summer in college even after another family member had publicly written me off. I am so glad she did. It is because she did that I got to know her.

She grew roses, lots of roses. She was a wonderful gardener. Once she brought in a rose as big as my head from the garden, luscious and peach colored. I was so startled and instantly in love with it, I memorized its name and have always meant to plant one of my own. Now I will, in her name.

She made my wedding dress. She added in such sweet details – a tiny silver dove as a zipper pull. A little lace four-leaf-clover to patch a hole in the tulle petticoat. A string of shining beads along the bodice. All gestures of love. It makes me so sad that one of the only pictures we have of her at the ceremony is of her making certain it looks perfect – and thus cutting herself out of the picture.

She was so beautiful, so elegant. I owe so much to her.

She spent her time fostering sick and homeless rabbits. I know no one else who has done more to help homeless animals. She was so passionate about it that she even called me out on it when she learned about my beliefs in farming. While I don’t agree with her views, not many people would be brave enough to confront a family member like that.

She was a strict vegetarian. She was multilingual and multicultural and had real Chinese and Indonesian furniture in her living room from when she had lived in those countries. She introduced me to the differences between Northern and Southern Indian cuisine, and the mu shu Chinese vegetable pancakes that I now adore. She was a foodie like me and made adventurous things from Gourmet magazine, like the jellied melon soup that we made gentle fun of her for. When I moved to DC she sent me a list of restaurants I had to try, but I still haven’t been to any of them.

She went against my dad’s wishes and got together with her sister and bought me a computer during my last 2 years of college.

Growing up, we always knew which Christmas gifts came from her because they would be wrapped in beautiful papers, each with a real satin ribbon and a little ornament or decoration attached to the bow. Because she was like that – she would see opportunities to create beauty in small details. We would save the ribbons and wear them in our hair because they were so nice. I’ve been wrapping my gifts like that for years, trying to emulate her.

She taught me about precious things and refinement of a higher class. She showed me her valuable collection of small Russian tea saucers and tiny cut-crystal goblets from before WWI. I don’t know if I am remembering the details right, but I do remember how much I learned from her. How she cherished and created beauty all her life.

It wasn’t a total surprise but it is still a blow. And so unfair.

I’m glad that I got to send a couple letters before the end, and those pictures of SofĂ­a wearing the gown she’d once made for me, but it isn’t enough. When her sight failed I meant to send her a bouquet of lavender because I thought she could still smell it. Why did I forget? Why didn’t I call? Why didn’t I write all these memories to her while she was still here?

I’m so angry with myself that I didn’t do more. I’m angry with cancer. I’m angry with her for not wanting a memorial service so that I could say goodbye, but most of all I’m so, so sad.

4 Responses to “Gone”

  1. Erin Says:

    Oh Diana, I’m so sorry! Your post touched my heart. I’m sorry for your loss of such a beautiful mentor in your life! Hugs!!!

  2. Aunt Nancy Says:

    So sorry to hear of your aunt”s passing. Don’t beat yourself up too much. I’m sure her thanks have always been felt just by your carrying on in her footsteps. Enjoy your memories.

  3. heidi Says:

    Diana,you have captured her so well. She was one of a kind–a real hand craft artisan and a beautiful, elegant, graceful being. She will be missed.

  4. Ralph Says:

    Dear Diana,
    Thank you for the beautiful eulogy. Yes, we will miss Susy, but I am glad that something of herself will live on in your memory.
    Uncle Ralph

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