Just when I thought 2011 would leave without doing any more damage it had to growl one last time, just to prove me wrong. Late Thursday we got word that Andrea’s aunt Karol had passed away.
You’ll notice I used her name, something I usually don’t do when commenting here because I try to keep things private for everyone, but this is one exception I was willing to make. The reason being the impact this woman had on Andrea was immense.
When I first met my wife, even as a young woman who just started going out with me, she mentioned her aunt Karol. I realize every family has their favorite aunt or uncle, where the parents love classical music, there’s the rock and roll aunt who exposes you to the stuff you want to know about. Sure, there was some of that with Karol, but really, she had far more immense an impact on Andrea than being the “fun Aunt.”
The moment I met Karol, I could see where Andrea got so much life. Where many relatives are cautious and quiet, possibly wanting to be less accepting, Karol met me with a big, warm hug and a smile the likes I hadn’t seen since I met Andrea. It made no difference that Karol wasn’t a blood relative. She had a massive impact on her life.
Karol had been fighting cancer for some time now, but if you had no idea, other than the times she might have to bow out of an event or the slight pale to her skin you would never have known. She was tall, thin, and full of life. She had a smile that filled her face in the best possible way. Like Andrea, when she smiled, her eyes sparkled, the happiness infectious to anyone in her vicinity. Andrea talked constantly about trips with her family that included Karol and her sister Kathy, camping, spending time in National Parks, traveling the state. Where Andrea’s father loved Jazz and her mother loved ’50s pop, Karol exposed her to folk, rock, Jimmy Buffett and the Doors. When Andrea met me and fell in love she told Karol. When we were engaged, Karol was there when I came to California she welcomed me with open arms and a hug that warmed even the coldest soul.
So much of what Andrea was I could see in the influences around her, and her aunts, the women who adopted her and her sister were so full of intense abandon that I couldn’t help but see the love and affection that Andrea shared. Where some criticized Andrea for faults or problems, Karol showed her nothing but love. The happiness and the smile the biggest influence. Whenever we were about to meet up with her Andrea got a giant smile and was full of excitement.
We knew Karol was fighting the disease, but it doesn’t ease the fact that we lost another amazing, beautiful woman. The world is a lot worse off for having lost her. I wish I could say I knew her far better than I did, but having her in my life, even by proxy through Andrea, was worthwhile. Only once in my time did I see Karol without a smile, and that was at Andrea’s funeral. Even then, in a time that was so intensely sad, even as sick as she probably was, Karol gave me a hug that warmed my heart. As cheesy as it sounds, it is a little comfort to think, whatever happens after this world, Andrea might have been there, waiting for her Aunt Karol, and for once telling her that everything would be OK.
I thought I’d already felt the coldness of my winter.
For this weekend, when the new year is to begin, Karol and her family, my sister-in-law, all of them will be in my thoughts and prayers. In the hopes that the new year will be better. It doesn’t have to try very hard.