In February 2008, my Aunt Sue was very ill and many of us anticipated she was going to die. However, it happened far faster than expected. I had intended to go down and see her again, with my youngest, while she was alive. Having foolishly postponed that trip, under the errant belief that she would be home from the hospital soon, I was faced instead with the trip to Texas for her funeral. I made fast arrangements, packed up my 13 month old son and got on a plane for Dallas.
It was just me and Isaac travelling. Since my Uncle Gene had to go ahead to Aunt Sue's hometown to make arrangements for her funeral, he would not be there to greet me. I landed in Dallas, rented a car, installed a car seat, wrangled my cranky toddler into the car and praised God for the GPS unit I rented, since it helped me to find my way. It also kept encouraging me to turn right onto a railroad track, but never mind that it did not like me, it helped me get to Uncle Gene and Aunt Sue's. Walking into that house was so strange. My Aunt Sue was the energetic sort who always had something going on. She and Uncle Gene had wanted children but had never been able to have any of their own. Aunt Sue filled that void by loving on her nieces and nephews and all neighbor children who crossed her path. Walking into a house without that energy, warmth and noise made it clear that Aunt Sue was gone. I felt so alone. I made myself and Isaac as comfortable as I could and tried to sleep.
The next day, I drove four hours to the town where Aunt Sue would be buried. I met up with Uncle Gene and Uncle Doug and we had the funeral, burial and lunch after. It was amazing how many people came up and told me how glad they were I was there and how glad Aunt Sue would be that Isaac was there. This was especially comforting to hear as Isaac played and danced on graves at her burial. I know this would have been highly inappropriate at most funerals, but I know, had Aunt Sue been there, she would have been playing with him and cuddling him close enough to make him squirm. That night my Uncle Gene, Uncle Doug, Isaac and I stayed at the home of one of Aunt Sue's cousins. That was where I met my Aunt Sue's Aunt Doodle.
Aunt Doodle was very old and obviously somewhat on the delicate side. However, she cooked for us and loved on Isaac and hugged me in exactly the same way Aunt Sue would have. Throughout the trip family members of my Aunt could not seem to stop hugging and kissing on cheeks. Isaac had be snuggled and passed around and enjoyed and loved on. I was beginning to truly understand where Aunt Sue got her love for children and learned how to express that love. Aunt Doodle was the epitome of this love. She was lovely and sweet. She and her daughter made sure that we felt welcome and comfortable. They truly treated us like family they knew and loved, though this was the first time I had ever met any of them.
Over a year later, just after Christmas, I was nearly ready to have our daughter Miriam and I was running out of patience with being so hugely pregnant. I was also having one of those days in which the children were doing their utmost to try my patience and make me wonder why I love them so much. I sought respite on the porch and two of them tried to follow me. I had to bite my tongue to keep from snapping at them to go away. I managed to convince them they were not missing anything exciting and I was not running away.
They went back in the house and I wandered to the end of the driveway, hoping a few minutes of sunshine and fresh air would equip me to finish the day ahead. There in the mail box was a totally unexpected pick me up. The card started "Dearest Sweet Sara, I am your Aunt Sue's Aunt Doodle. I was thinking of you and your beautiful family." It was a warm, sweet, loving card and emphasized what a blessing she felt Isaac and I were to her during the time of Aunt Sue's funeral.
I sat on my porch swing and cried. I thought about my Aunt Sue and how she would have loved to meet the little one who was about to be born. It made me sad that she would never meet this daughter of mine on this side of Heaven. I also was thinking of how truly loved and welcome I felt when I was with her family. I found myself thanking God for the angel in human skin who had loved us so well for those two short days. Here she was again, brightening a difficult and dark day. She signed the card "Your Aunt Doodle." What a true blessing that card was.
I made sure to send her a birth announcement, but that year we did not send Christmas cards and I don't think I heard from her again. I thought of her often as I ran across her card in unexpected places. This year, I decided to send her a copy of our family picture and a Christmas card to tell her what a lovely woman she is and a blessing to me. I hoped it would brighten her day as she had brightened mine and I knew she would appreciate seeing all of the children.
Today, I received a card from her daughter. As soon as I saw the address I knew what had happened. The card explained that last September, Aunt Doodle had a fall and broke her hip and arm. Six weeks later, while getting herself into her wheelchair, she fell again, suffered a brain hemorrhage and died. She thanked me for remembering her mother and sending such a lovely card and picture of my precious family. I found myself crying over the loss of a woman I had met once and "spoken" to twice. She had touched me and in so doing had brightened and softened a little part of my heart.
I believe God has heart tenderizing people scattered in our lives. They are the people who do such a wonderful job of thoroughly loving everyone around them. I don't know what it was exactly about Aunt Doodle, but I felt like she took a special liking to me. In reality, I know she was simply one of those amazing souls who makes every single person in her world feel special and loved. I have been blessed to have a few such people in my life. I wish I knew how these people manage to love like that.
I shared all this because such a sweet woman should be remembered. I also shared because I wanted to assure people that little things matter. I treasure thank you notes and cards that are sent to me. I know I am not the only one. It seems some people want to make the grand gesture, or nothing at all. A card sent to someone who is sick, or just someone you were thinking of, can brighten that person's day. A phone call can do the same. I suppose a text or email can too, but there really is something about a card, with handwritten words that just has more feeling to it. Maybe because it takes more effort to buy the card, write the note, seal the envelope, buy the stamps and send the card, than it does to shoot off an email. I know that I neglect a lot of people and there are probably some reading this now thinking, "Huh, a tad hypocritical of you, Sara." Yeah, I know. I am not talking about me here, just saying, we all could stand to learn a lot from the Aunt Doodles of the world.
To my Aunt Sue's Aunt Doodle (who became my Aunt Doodle, even if for just a short while), Thank you for loving me unselfishly and without gain. Thank you for being a little bit of God's love in human skin. You surely will be remember by many more people than you ever could have thought possible. Thank you, God, for placing people on this earth who give us just a small taste of how You love us.