Late yesterday afternoon, my mom’s eldest sister passed away after a battle with cancer over the past few years. It was a battle she had mostly kept to herself. She had spent much of her last years taking care of her husband, my Uncle George, with the help of family members. Caregivers, like Aunt Evelyn have a tendency to brush aside their own illness while they take care of others. They simply don’t have time to be sick. They are busy making others well.
Being the oldest of Grandma and Grandpa Byer’s nine children, Aunt Evelyn learned at a very young age that she was needed to help with the younger siblings. While Grandma Byer didn’t work or go many places, there were after all eight other children, and the oldest if often the best helper. Aunt Evelyn was also a very social person as a girl though, and really all her life. It was Aunt Evelyn, who would make her parents grandparents for the first time, something that can be a bit of an honor, in itself. It was Aunt Evelyn and Uncle George, who would double date with my mom and dad during their courting years. They would all survive being hit by a train during one of those dates because of the quick thinking of both of the men. I’m sure that was something they all talked about for a long time.
Now the memories are flooding my mind. Times we spent at her house as kids, playing hide and seek, and all the other kids games we used to play. I remember the New Years Eve parties they spent at our house, and all the times at Grandma Byer’s house. I remember sitting out on Aunt Evelyn’s lawn on summer afternoons, and her beautiful house, which was her pride and joy. She enjoyed throwing and attending the annual Christmas party, and the summer picnic, until it became too difficult…which made me sad indeed.
It seems that with each passing year, our family patriarches become fewer and fewer. I remember thinking that we would always have the aunts and uncles with us, and now there remain only five of the original siblings and four of their spouses. Somehow, we all believed that they would always be here. I guess our minds play tricks on us when it comes to loved ones…even to the extent of refusing to notice that they are aging, until we look back at pictures after they are gone. Then suddenly we realize just how tired they were, just how weak and weary, and maybe, just how sick and in pain they were. Nevertheless, they kept up a brave face, smiling at each visit, in spite of the pain. They tried so hard to make us feel better, when in reality they were getting ready to say goodbye. That’s how Aunt Evelyn was. Always thinking of those around her before she thought of herself. Always trying to make their day better, a thing she did quite well with that beautiful smile of hers. I will always miss her smile. It is so much of who she was, and who she will always be in my heart. We love you Aunt Evelyn, we will miss you very much, and we will see you again in Heaven very soon.