Earlier this week my family lost a beloved member. My great-aunt left us, and her absence will be felt strongly. She was many things to many people in the family, and while we didn’t spend a great deal of time together over my lifetime, she left quite an impression.
Her passing marks the end of a generation for some of us. She was the last of her siblings here on earth, the last connection to that branch of our family tree. I’m sure a lot of us wish we’d heard more of her stories. But what made time with her remarkable was that she didn’t spend that time talking about the past. She didn’t want to simply relive memories; she wanted to continue making them.
When I lived in New England for a couple of years, I was able to spend some time with her. I was excited for the opportunity. While I’d seen her at family gatherings over the years and at my grandmother’s (her sister) house when I lived in Florida, we never spent any one-on-one time. But I remembered her as an energetic smiling woman, the spunky youngest sister to my grandmother and her siblings. She always entered the room and stirred things up with her energy.
I’m grateful for an afternoon spent with her at the RISD Museum. (She drove, of course.) She talked to my boyfriend and I about how much she enjoyed art and learning about culture. She said she was learning calligraphy and had become interested in Asian art. There was so much to learn and experience, and she was far from finished. I was impressed that she was not slowing down intellectually or educationally, even if she wasn’t as spry as she once was. But she was still physically active. She’d mentioned her daily walks and wondered how far she went each day. As it happened, my job at the time involved testing pedometers. I was excited to be able to do something for her, so I sent her my favorite model to track her progress.
My last conversation with her a few months ago reinforced my admiration for my aunt and her never-ending curiosity; every conversation did, really. She’d previously told me about learning to text (to better communicate with her young grandchildren) and was excited to learn to use Facebook in the hopes of finding some old friends. But in the spring, she was especially excited about the revolutions taking place around the world with the help of Twitter. While some seniors would just shake their head, say they don’t understand it, and move on, my aunt was thrilled with new technology and the many changes she’d witnessed in her life.
People who believe in reincarnation often talk about old souls and new souls. A person who seems wise beyond their years or who faces life with a calm, stable demeanor is often called an old soul. But we hear less about new souls. I’ve heard new souls described as people who are in a state of wonder. Every experience is new, and the world is an exciting and fun place for them. I think of that when I think of my late great-aunt. I hope that I can develop and keep that sense of wonder that she seemed to have.