A Jewel

Growing up in the backwoods of Idaho, I came in contact with many colorful characters. Most of them related in on way or another to one or both of my parents, who were second cousins themselves. (Oh yeah, that’s a whole other blog post)

Earlier this week, late in the evening I received a text message from my youngest sister who had included a link to the obituary for one of my aunts. She died on January 1st, after, what I call, a long illness. It wasn’t terribly shocking, though she was still in her sixties and rather young to die. As I read the simple paragraphs, I was struck first by the realization that we shared a birthday month and at 64, she was not even twenty years older than me. The rest of the column read like any other small town tribute. It praised her work in the local church, meticulously listed her surviving family members, carefully counted her grandchildren, pointing out she attended more of her kids and grand kids sports activities “…than any other parent or grandparent.”

Ditch Jewel-beauty found in the ugliest of places


Since my own mother’s death two years ago, I often find myself wondering what any given person would think if they could read what their family wrote about them after they died. It strikes me oddly that the things most spoken are the lives left behind, the good works, the suffering done in silence. Are the things the living remember truly what the deceased were most proud of?

I only ask because I know some of the inside story of her family life. I know she was my favorite aunt, growing up. In the boisterous house that was my grandma’s, filled to the brim with loud laughing men, busy women shooing away herds of wild running children, she was soft and quiet. Never demanding hugs or kisses, just a soft touch on your shoulder or gently leaning against you to whisper it was good to see you. She smelled like flowers and seemed oddly out-of-place next to her braying, obnoxious husband. She always brought delicious food and I never heard her complain about living in a town with a population barely reaching into the triple digits. She always mentioned how pretty I was, how the color I wore made my eyes sparkle. She was jealous of my hair, told me so time and again. As the years went on I saw her less and less, she didn’t change a bit. There were many problems with her children, with her husband, with her health. I never heard about any of them from her. She was an accomplished masseuse and always offered me her services. She would say, “You should come out and let me give you a massage, I bet it would help and I’d love to do it.” I would smile and thank her, give her a big hug, but I would never drive the thirty-five miles out to the old homestead. For most, maybe all of her married life, she lived in my grandma’s old house. The house, on a dairy farm, was where my mother’s siblings were all raised. Grandma got to move to a new house but she got the old house because her husband wanted the farm.

I’m sitting here tonight, wondering again, about a woman I should have known so well, yet hardly knew at all. I’m bothered that she died and I never took the time to ask her what made her happy, what she dreamed about, where she got her phenomenal stamina. I’m sad that she spent her entire life in such a depressing little town with such spiteful people. I remember my mom telling me that my aunt wanted a divorce, mom was scandalized. Knowing whom she married and where she lived, I asked, “Only just now?” Mom laughed, but she could, she’d escaped.

I’ve come to know other of my aunts better in the intervening years, indeed, have a very close relationship with one who is my rock and another who keeps tabs on me, not letting me forget she loves me. I want to do better with these I have left, I want to know them better than just an aunt. When they die,  my desire is to have no need of reading their obituary because I asked them while they were alive, because I knew them well enough that I don’t need to read a list of their descendants, or of their service. I’ll already know what their hopes were, what dreams were fulfilled and that they’re leaving this world more suffused with light and love than when they arrived.3-3k_syej1s-julia-caesar


Undoubtedly my Aunt Jewel is going to a better place, a place of less pain both physical and emotional. I wish her a blissful journey and the joy I think she deserved but got so little of here.


0 thoughts on “A Jewel”

  1. Sorry for your loss.

    I have an aunt like yours who keeps tabs on me. It is my Mom’s youngest sister. I remember she lived with us for awhile when I was young and feels compelled to be “that” aunt! I don’t call her enough but have committed to myself I will this year.

    1. My mom was the oldest of thirteen, it’s her youngest sister that I’m closest to. The sister that was just younger than my mom keeps tabs on me. I don’t call either enough, I should commit to do better as well.
      So glad you are doing well, you had me worried there for a bit!

  2. This is beautiful, Carly. I’m sorry about your aunt. Even in passing it seems she has left you a beautiful gift to learn from and share with others. I recall Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits as I read this. He wrote about imagining ourselves at our own funeral and what we would want people from different parts of our life to say about us. Through those comments and this exercise, we realize what is most important to us and can begin to live our life in ways to that make those comments a reality. Touching story 💖

    1. Thank you. You’ve got me thinking, about what my family would say. I’m afraid they’d put me in the same boat. lol, and that wouldn’t even begin to scratch the surface.

      1. It is interesting how much those closest to us don’t know about our inner dreams. The funeral scenario is a sad one but a pretty solid exercise in goal setting. There is much beyond what you share with the world through the mask of your persona. Hope you will continue to take us deeper…😘

        1. I agree, completely.
          As for sharing more, well, it’s nice to find a comfortable place populated with the like minded. A friendly place to start, if you will. I think you host one such welcoming portal. 😉

  3. I’m sorry about your aunt and I’m glad you have these memories.

    My mom and I wrote her obituary together (about a month before she died, if I recall correctly), and also my dad’s. If you take one of those “preparing for your death” classes along with advice about investments, wills, funeral planning, etc., they will tell you to draft your obituary and leave it somewhere where someone can find it. I found that I had to insist that she include a few things that were fairly important to me that she had either forgotten or didn’t think were that important but had been important to me, at the time. And there are certain things that are hard to put in an obituary, especially for a woman who worked at home for most of her life. How do you say, “her greatest achievement was raising her children and keeping her husband out of trouble?” Somehow, in terms of things people say in this genre, it seems inappropriate.

    But it did get me on the track of the fiction writing I actually want to do — because there are so many things that can’t be said in these texts and are easily forgotten.

    1. I guess it’s just got me thinking, what did they think there greatest achievement was? It’s all listed out in the paper, born, married, had kids, went to church, countless frigid evenings at games no one who wasn’t on the field remembers, died. I know that where I grew up, that was a successful life. But it doesn’t tell us anything about her real life, other than she did what was expected. I want to know about the life inside of her. What did she think of that?
      On the other hand, I don’t know if I would have been able to write an obit with my mom, or dad. Not that I’d be asked to. When recounting the life of someone, it’s the inappropriate that makes it real, makes it memorable, makes them into a person, no longer an interchangeable picture in a page of paragraphs.

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