My mother’s younger sister Lillian had a huge heart. If you had looked in the dictionary under compassion or even empathy, you’d find a photo of my Aunt Lillian. If you had trouble, Lillian was there to be with you – to support you, to sit with you, to do whatever needed to be done.
When my mother had to have emergency surgery, Lillian came to town and sat with us at the hospital. When my brother died, Lillian was there. There were many times that she and my uncle stopped while they were in town and stayed for dinner. People didn’t phone long distance much in those days. It was too expensive. They dropped by, something that people seldom do anymore.
She worked hard and raised a big family, struggling with diabetes for many years. It was hard for her to say no to a cookie or a piece of pie. They always called her name. I have good memories of being at her home for family reunions when I was little. Her butterscotch cookies called my name.
I remember one reunion when I went to her and told her I thought my cousin Austin was so handsome. I was probably all of seven or eight years old. She leaned forward and said, “Honey, if you go tell him that, he’ll give you a quarter.” And I promptly went to Austin and told him that his mother said if I told him he was handsome, he would give me a quarter. I don’t remember if he gave me the quarter, but it certainly prompted laughter from the fellas standing around with him.
Aunt Lillian had a sister-in-law named Olive who was a thorn in her side all the years of her marriage. Olive was mean. I suspect Aunt Lillian wanted to keep the peace so she never made an issue out of Olive’s behavior.
When Aunt Lillian was dying, we gathered at the hospital to support her family. It was the least we could do after what she had done for all of us over the years. It was with delight that I heard one of my cousins report on something Lillian said shortly before she died. She sat up on her deathbed and said, “That Olive’s a bitch” and then laid back down. She waited a lifetime to say it. It makes me smile every time I think of it.