Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words (or Memories)

I apparently stored some pictures in the bottom drawer of Abigail's dresser and forgot about them. Today, Abigail brought down a picture that she had found when looking for some of her flashcards in that bottom drawer. I had an immediate reaction when I saw the picture. Most of the time, I let her hold pictures without giving them much thought but this one was different. I told her she had to be very careful with it if she was going to hold it. The picture isn't very old so it's not fragile. So, what makes it so special that I want her to be careful with it?

It was one of the last pictures taken of my aunt before she died. The events surrounding her death are harsh and sad and not intended for this post. Just a couple of days before her death, she helped serve at the youth Valentine's banquet at our church. The picture shows my aunt, my mom, and a couple other ladies at work in the kitchen.

Her name was Tina. She was my dad's only sister. She had dark hair, a beautiful smile, and a laugh the filled up the room. She was kind, beautiful, smart, and loved. She was strong and brave. She had to be. She had three rambunctious boys who have grown up to be rambunctious men. Ha! OK. Maybe they aren't so rambunctious anymore...maybe. She would be very proud of the men they have become.

I loved spending time with her. Several months before her death, she and her boys had moved in with my grandparent's. I loved going over to my grandparent's house in the evenings to hang out with my cousins, see my grandparent's, and spend time with her. I remember her working on cross-stitch's a lot of evenings. She would let me try on her clothes and she always talked to me like I was an adult not just some obnoxious kid.

I have tons of other memories of her. She had this awesome Trooper. We kids used to always fight about who was going to ride in the back of it. The back was meant for storage, not passengers. There were no seat belts so several of us would sit back there, being tossed around by every bump. We didn't just ride down the street. We often rode like that to the next town which was thirty minutes away. I still find it completely ridiculous that our parent's actually let us do that. There is no way I would let Abigail do something like that.

 I have fond memories of going to the roller skating rink or driving to Statesboro for our family Christmas party. There was always a race to see who could make it to the Trooper first. Riding with Aunt Tina was always the first choice. She made the best Christmas cookies. It was years after her death before I ever found someone who made Christmas cookies like her. Now, we make them with Abigail. I don't think they taste as good as hers did but I think about her every time we bake them. Most of my memories revolve around the holidays or weekends because for most of the time she lived in South Carolina. It was only right before her death that she moved back to Georgia with her boys. I remember being so happy that my cousins would be living right next door and that we would get to see her and them every day.

I was twelve when she died. I had been to funerals of relatives before but for most of them, I was young and didn't really understand or they were distant relatives or friends of my parent's that I didn't really know. Her death was hard. It was hard on us all. Her life was taken from her which made the pain of losing her all the more difficult to deal with. I had never felt such devastating loss.

Our family dynamic greatly changed. I can think of several things that aren't the same since her death. There is no holiday or family gathering where I don't remember that she isn't there or wonder what it would be like if she were. Another thing that changed was that my grandma started calling me Tina. Not on purpose of course. I worked with my grandmother for two summers at her job. My aunt had worked with her before her death as well. That was when I noticed her calling me Tina more and more. She always caught herself but it always made me feel sad and almost guilty in some way. I couldn't figure out why she would even call me by her name. I thought maybe it had something to do with me working with her and maybe it did but I once asked my dad why he thought she did that. He said that it was probably because I reminded my grandmother of my Aunt. He said that I often reminded him of his sister. He said that our personalities were a lot of like and so were our laughs. I remember thinking that was one of the best compliments I had ever received. I was glad that I was like her in some way.

I still miss her... a lot. I often dream about her. Even in my dreams, I know she isn't supposed to be there, but I'm always glad she is. Dreams like that are hard to wake up from because once you do, the person you love is gone again. But in some ways they are a blessing too because even if it's only in a dream, you get those few moments with that person who no longer dwells among the living.

I had to tell my daughter that the picture was special because mommy's Aunt was in that picture. I explained to her who Aunt Tina was and that she didn't live on earth anymore but in heaven with Jesus. She wanted to know why. The realities of her death aren't something a small child should hear. Maybe one day, I'll tell her the story when she's older. A story of life and death, of good and evil, the reality of the sinful world we live in. But until then, I'll tell her stories about a woman who loved God, who loved her family, and who is missed greatly by her family.

This picture is from the late 80's or early 90's, I'm guessing. It was the only picture I could find of her on my cousin's Facebook page. I'll have to scan some into the computer and add them to this post later.

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