I had very few relatives that were a part of my life growing up. My parents had moved out to this area after WWII from New Hampshire to find jobs and housing...they'd married soon after my father had arrived back home from Europe after the war. When I married my dear hubby, I married someone who had more relatives than he knew what to do with. His mom was one of 14 children...on that side of the family alone, he had over 60 first cousins. His dad was one of 7 children and there were cousins there, too. I was overwhelmed, to put it mildly. I gave up eons ago trying to figure out his mom's side especially!! One relative he DID have who became like a second mother to me was his dad's older sister, Virginia, known to all of us as Aunt Gin.
Aunt Gin is a hard person to describe with words. Her actions far outspoke her words. A more kind, caring, and compassionate woman would be hard to find. Because she spoke her mind and didn't mince words...she was honest to the point of being brutal at times...many of her own family members never learned to appreciate the true woman. She'd visit shut-ins, always bringing a card or flowers or a home-baked pie, and her pies were to die for! She rescued me once when my car broke down on a stormy day when I was out with my two toddlers...then bought me a membership to AAA. She was a Sunday School teacher for something like 40 years. A lot of her students were African American children who came to Sunday School on buses and vans and she'd have them over to her house for pizza parties and to help them learn their Sunday School lessons. She and her husband, Uncle Louis, donated unknown thousands of dollars to send many children to Youth Camp each year -- anonymously. You needed a prayer answered, you called Aunt Gin to ask her to pray for you. She had the most irreverent giggle, a sly sense of humor, a twinkle in her eye that I miss more than I can tell you. When she'd call on the phone, she'd always start out her conversation with "I hope I'm not catching you at a bad time", no matter how many times I told her I LOVED talking with her! When my family more or less disowned me when I became a Christian, she took me under her wing and kept me tenderly tucked there.
She was my rock, my mentor. She was my dearest friend. On the day I found out my mom's colon cancer was terminal, Aunt Gin called to see what the results were...she'd been with me every step of the way from the onset of my mother's illness. I told Aunt Gin, "It's terminal...she has 6 months at the most." When Aunt Gin said to me, "Oh, my darling..." with such sweet love in her voice...well, I just fell apart. She let me cry for a bit, then told me "We need to do something to cheer you up! I'm going to come by tomorrow and take you out to lunch in Chinatown, then we'll go up to the Pittock Mansion and look at all the Christmas decorations!" We had a lovely lunch together, then drove on up Burnside Street to the Pittock Mansion. It was one of those rare November days in Oregon....gorgeous deep blue skies and SUNSHINE!!! We parked the car and went in and toured the mansion together, enjoying the decorations and the beauty of the manse....no expense was spared in the time period it was built and even today it's one of Portland's showcases. Then we strolled arm-in-arm along the bluff the house is built on above the Willamette. It has a spectacular view of Mt. St. Helens and, if my memory serves me right, Mt. Hood as well. One of those red-letter days that stick with you forever.
Three years later, Aunt Gin was diagnosed with colon cancer as well. I was privileged to take care of her as she died. What a woman...what a WARRIOR! She wasn't going to give in to it without the fight of her life! I was the last person she ever spoke to on this Earth...then she took sweet flight to her Heavenly Home.
What will my earthly legacy be when I die? Will someone miss me as much as I've missed this dear and precious woman for the past 13 years? I like to think someday in Heaven she's going to come up to me and say "I hope I'm not catching you at a bad time". I'm going to take her by the arm, stroll those Streets of Gold with her, and tell her, "Aunt Gin...I have all the time in the world...."