One of the worst things about growing older is losing those you love and having to say goodbye to them, often unexpectedly. (A friend of mine from high school recently said, "The only time being a grown-up pays off is when I want an extra cookie, watch a dirty movie without fear of getting caught, or get a drink.")
Today we said goodbye to my great-aunt Eileen, who passed away Tuesday night at after suffering a massive stroke following heart surgery last week. She was 85 years old.
Aunt Eileen was an absolutely terrific person, who never stopped living life to its fullest every day. As many of her generation, she was never shy about sharing her opinions and telling you exactly how she felt, but she was also never shy about sharing her love and her heart with those she cared about. For as long as I can remember, she was a tremendously warm and welcoming person, and always made W feel like he truly was a part of our family when she saw him.
She taught school for more than 30 years on Long Island, and loved to talk about books and other intellectual pursuits with me. I remember as a child, she would always give me workbooks and other study materials she thought would be helpful, and was always happy to talk things through. She believed you should never stop learning, and took classes and attended workshops throughout her life.
Her greatest love, of course, was her family. My uncle Jack died approximately 20 years ago, but she never let widowhood stop her. She had four terrific childrenAllyn, Larry, Roberta, and Cindywhom she loved as fiercely as she did all of her grandchildrenBobby, Philip, Ian, Barbara, Debbie, Ross, and Cole. And she was over the moon with her nearly two-year-old great-grandson, Jackson.
But her love and her generosity of spirit didn't just stop with her immediate family. I remember she sent me a card when I had my gall bladder removed in the late 1990s, and also sent a card and checked on me when I started chemotherapy for cancer in late 2002. She was always happy when any family came together, whether for a special occasion or just an everyday encounter.
I was lucky to see my aunt in July when we celebrated my grandmother's 89th birthday. She was completely happy, healthy, funny, and opinionated as always. It's the perfect way to remember her.
Rest in peace, Aunt Eileen. Thank you for your love, your spirit, your intelligence, and for being you. I will miss you with all of my heart.