Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Everybody's Aunt Rebecca

Aunt Rebecca with her own family and two nieces in 2002

"We've learned from you how to be a loving daughter, a great sister, an aunt, a mentor and a best friend." Megan Vrabel

Aunt Rebecca died today. Our family lost a modest but mighty human being. And heaven gained a truly beautiful soul.

Technically she was my husband's aunt, his mother's sister. But she was my aunt too. She was, in fact, one of those women who felt like your own aunt 15 minutes after you met her.

She'd been ill a long time and we were prepared -- as much as you can ever be prepared for the death of a loved one. The bedside vigil played out as well as we could hope ... clean and comfortable room, kind and caring nurses, deep and apparently peaceful sleep, the gathering of family to say goodbye.

Then, even as we waited for the inevitable, the unthinkable intruded. Virginia Tech. Yesterday we watched from the hospital lounge as President Bush and others spoke to the campus and the world about the tragedy. We heard and read news about the victims, the events, the perpetrator, reaction around the globe.

Yet we couldn't absorb the enormity of the Virginia Tech massacre. Our reality was focused on Aunt Rebecca and our own impending loss.

Objectively, it's impossible to compare the merciful passing of one 82-year-old woman to the sudden brutal murders of 32 unsuspecting victims, many just beginning life's journey.

But the measurement of bereavement is necessarily subjective.

Aunt Reba, as we all called her, was special. To her husband of nearly 60 years. To her children and grandchildren. To her brother, her nieces and nephews, her great-nieces and nephews.

She was an impeccable wife, a loving mother and aunt, a devoted daughter, sister and niece too. A generous spirit, a thoughtful and caring relative, a loyal friend. She was quiet and gentle, a little over-protective, a worrier and a peace-maker.

But that's because Aunt Rebecca was the kind of person who wanted everything to go well. Who offered to help anyone. Who tried to please everyone. I realize now that I never thought of how frustrating it must have been when her efforts weren't enough, her offers refused, her advice ignored.

She never showed her family anything but kindness and love. I hope we gave her enough in return.

If you have an "Aunt Rebecca" in your family, tell her now how much she means to you. For caring. For being there. For setting a standard of unyielding family devotion that's too often missing in today's busy world.

Resolve to give your "Aunt Rebecca" the thanks she so richly deserves. Before it's too late.

Rest in peace, Aunt Reba. Olev a Shalom.

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