Our good friend and honorary “Auntie” Jill passed away over a year ago. Her funeral was held on my 37th Birthday. We mourned well into the summer that year and whenever I visit her Nursing Facility, I grieve. My children grew up visiting the Nursing Home to see Auntie Jill and Grandma Joyce, a weekly visit that included candy, hugs and lots of tickles.
Jill was one of those people who lived, fully. We would often find her “out and about” making her way to some event or another. She had the ability to make both friends and enemies fiercely. She laughed often, cried with spirit, and fought through the challenges that life can bring. She treated our children as if they were truly her niece and nephew, remembering every story we told and often reminding us of the details we forgot. Every milestone in their lives was shared with her and she truly loved being a part of our lives.
The summer before she passed away, we planned a trip to see the July 4th Fireworks in town. We walked to the event, while she “rode” her candy apple colored wheelchair through the crowded streets. She would pass more than a few people who she knew from her many trips around town. We didn’t get to see the fireworks display that year. Some technical problems left us viewing only part of the display, but we managed to have fun eating carnival food and people watching.
We planned our July 4th with close family friends this year. As we packed up for a long night we decided to visit Grandma Joyce for the afternoon. As my daughter and I sat waiting in the courtyard, I noticed the Butterfly Bush planted in her honor dancing in the breeze. I was caught off guard by the flood of thoughts and the memories of our July 4th two years before.
Whether I realized it or not, I thought about Jill all night. As our kids ran around, I could imagine how much she would have liked to see them grow. She would have enjoyed seeing the stars come out at night, the lights dim for the fireworks themselves, and would have danced with Sage as she twirled to the music. Every last question Noah had would have been answered.
I miss my friend. At the end of the night, we walked out into the crowds making our way home.
“I miss Jill.” I said to Sharlene. “I thought about her all night.”
“I was thinking the same thing.” At that moment, the band started playing Military Taps.
“How ironic?” I said.
My son quietly adds, “I wish she didn’t die.”
In a very strange way, this July 4th was more of a celebration and goodbye than her funeral was. We all miss her so much!