My aunt (my father's sister) just passed away yesterday afternoon. She had been quite sick for a while with cancer and congestive heart failure. She had reached a point where she had trouble breathing, and it had just become too difficult for her. When I was a child, my grandmother and my aunt babysat us after school: "us" would include my sister and myself, as well as several of my cousins. It was a sort of familial form of daycare, and if it takes a village to raise a child, she was most definitely a part of the village that raised "us". She was a good cook and we always ate well there. I can picture waiting impatiently for apple fritters to cool before we were allowed to snack away on them.
My grandmother had 3 girls and 4 boys. All the boys married but the girls lived at home. Even after both their parents died, they chose to continue as roommates and are all still together now. As is done in the south sometimes, she was called Sister by everyone who knew her. I have this memory of not knowing her real name was Elizabeth until I was about 9 years old. I also remember my other aunts saying that they had called her Sister for so long that even the guys she dated in school sometimes called her that!
She and my other aunts worked at the local drive in as well as the movie theater selling tickets as well as cleaning up the theater. Occasionally they would allow one of us to "spend the night" and go with them to clean up the movie theater after a show. We were allowed to keep any money we found so we thought we were rich with our dimes and quarters.
As a child, my aunt suffered from polio, and walked with a limp. She had a wicked sense of humor, but could also laugh at herself. Her hearing had not been the best for many years now and it had gotten to be a bit of a joke if she staked a claim to a comment even when someone else had just said it a minute before; she just hadn't heard it. She also tickled us when she incorrectly used some words, such as when she chose to cook with "canine pepper." Though she could sometimes appear small and fragile, she was a firecracker and kept everyone as straight as she possibly could. Though I am glad she will endure no more suffering and pain, she will be dearly missed and our love for her will not be diminished.