I really love the way the sunset looks from the window of an airplane. It’s so vast and awe-inspiring and beautiful. And I got to see it on the way home from Pennsylvania last Sunday.
The circumstances surrounding my travel to PA weren’t great, and as we took off, speeding back towards Atlanta, I felt like crying for what is lost. But as I reflected on the weekend and all that it meant to me, I eventually found myself filled to the brim with gratitude and even peace as I gazed out the window at the colors painted across the sky.
The Lehigh Valley area is just so nostalgic to me. Being back there makes the nostalgia so vivid – highlighting the stark contrast of my treasured memories against the cold fact that I’ll never hear grandpa’s laugh again and grandma can’t live forever.
And so, I did my best to be present in every moment, soaking it all up. I wandered and explored the streets of Easton – a place that is now equal parts familiar and foreign. Husband and I found grandma and grandpa’s old place in College Hill – a neighborhood oozing with charming stone houses, huge leafy trees and a sprawling park that I can still remember playing in as a kid some 25-30 years ago.
“Was the front door the same color?” Grandma asked, when we visited her later that night in the hospital. I never saw the front door of their old condo, and she couldn’t remember what color it was, except to say it was “a happy color.” As soon as my parents reminded me it was purple, I could picture it again.
I wasn’t sure I’d get to see grandma this time. She’d been admitted to the hospital, and her condition was unclear. But husband and I got to spend a delightful hour chatting with her, laughing with her and catching up. What a gift; and even now, despite the trauma grandpa’s death has caused her in the 5 years he’s been gone, she is still so much the same spunky, opinionated lady I’ve always known.
I know I’m lucky – I got some of her better moments.
And I know she thought we came all the way from Atlanta just to visit her, but the truth is we were also there for her eldest daughter, my aunt’s, funeral.
I didn’t know my aunt very well. I knew a little bit about her “colorful” past, and I have vague memories of her stopping in – never for very long – when we were at my grandparent’s lake house during the summer.
And after her funeral, after hearing the version of her that so many other people knew, I am sad that I didn’t know her better. Sad that her death will leave such a hole in so many lives.
But I’m glad to have a more complete picture of her now; a full spectrum of humanness – the good and the bad. And thrilled to have spent several hours with family that I rarely get the privilege of spending time with. More blessings.
And out of my sadness over a non-existent relationship with one of my aunts comes a chance to do it differently with the others. I hugged both remaining aunts a little tighter this time – one of which I am much closer to than the other.
That other aunt, the one I’m not as close to – she lived with the aunt that just passed away. And this weekend, we exchanged numbers. So I hope, when the time comes for her to leave this earth, I will not be sitting at her funeral learning all the best things about her for the first time. I hope I will know them first hand.
Out of sadness comes love and hope and gratitude and out of mistakes, second chances.
RIP, aunt Liz…and so much love to the rest of my wonderfully messy, charismatic, fun, and loving family. ❤