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4.30.2014

AUNT BANITA, a.k.a. Aunt Juanita

My Aunt died Easter morning.  For her, it was the perfect day to enter heaven.  Since life had been hard for her for more years than you can count on your two hands, I'm glad God gave her that day to leave the physical world we see and enter the spiritual one.

I grew up blessed, safe, and loved.  Not only did I have those emotional moorings, but I had spiritual ones as well.  In the physical sense, I was privileged to grow up in a way that most my age or younger might not have had.  I grew up on a farm, across the road from my paternal grandparents and kitty cornered [slang terminology with an assumed stretch meaning; cross ways or diagonal or at an angle - not directly across]  from my aunt and uncle and three first cousins. 

My aunt was a classy lady.  She was a beautiful woman whose hair was gorgeously thick and fashionably styled.  Quite definitely she fit in the category of natural beauty, get-out- of-bed good looks.  Pictures of her in high school show merely a younger version of the beauty she was at every age. 

I liked how, when you talked with her, her eyes showed connection, love, care, and passion over certain topics.  You could always sort of tell what she thought if you just watched her eyes.  

When I was a kid I was mesmerized by her exotic name - JUANITA.  I knew no other white of Eastern European descent Juanitas.  I conjured up stories in my head about her name and its origin.  Her beautifully exotic name just made me love her more.  Someone with that name had to be special. 

She was also very smart.  And by smart, I mean intellectually IQ-ishly brainy.  She didn't boast about it, but it was there and one could see it.  She gave that smarts to her three kids who likewise all have great intellectual capacities.  She was a beautiful, brainy lady who married my dad's younger brother and so she became my aunt, a farmer's wife and a mother.

For whatever reason, probably from when we were little kids and couldn't say certain sounds correctly, we would call her Aunt Banita (rhymes with Juanita).  It was similar to how little kids butcher the word  spaghetti and instead say, baseghetti.  In my adult world, it was just a very warm term of endearment denoting her place of longevity and love as my aunt.

The Bible, through Paul in II Corinthians 1, talks about how the comfort we have received comforts others.  That’s what my Aunt Juanita was to me.  It would seem that those, to whom great comfort from God Himself had been given, gave it freely and in great proportions to those around them.  And, Aunt Juanita did just that.
We shared a vein of physical struggles - diseases given to us in seemingly the midst of the prime of our lives.  We both got chronic illness the same year.  I battled mine.  And, Aunt Juanita battled hers.  In spite of, or maybe because of her illness, she encouraged me.  In the midst of her own illness she would call or send a card, and eventually with her own voice dampened, she would text.  Always I knew she prayed for me.  Somehow, sometimes without a big dialogue, she knew I understood what it was to drag something you didn’t want with you while you tried to move forward and live whatever life was in front of you.  Her perseverance reminded me to press ahead. 

Illness does something horrible to you, but it gives you something grand – a keen awareness of things around you.  You see in hyper vision – others, yourself, and God.  It’s God’s ultimate secret gift wrapped inside the horrifics of disease.  And, Aunt Juanita had that in huge measures. 
Through the events of my life in the past few years, she and I had some great discussions.  She always allowed me to share my heart and tears with her.  The end result was always the same – her encouragement and her acknowledgement of the brightness she saw in me after years of struggle. 

When her health continued to fail, she never failed to love.  My texts were always returned with, “How’s my Nancy?”
I hate illness.  I hate it in my own life.  I especially hated it in Aunt Juanita’s life.  What I love though is the gift she found inside of it and how she shared it with us all.

I miss you deeply Aunt Banita.

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