My mom had two sisters by birth--Beth and Dana--and she gained one more when she married my dad: my Aunt Jackie.
I recently found an amazing gift that Jackie put together for my mom for Christmas in 1991. That had been a long year for my mom, with her cancer diagnosis, surgery, chemotherapy, bone marrow transplant, and three-month hospital stay. Jackie put together a beautiful binder filled with letters from family and friends expressing their admiration and love for my mom, sharing favorite memories, and encouraging her in her battle. It is a treasure to read the letters (it has had me close to tears tonight as I've flipped through it), and I'm sure it meant the world to my mom. That was back in the days before email, so getting in touch with all of those people and compiling a gift like that must have taken my aunt a lot of time and effort.
I loved reading the memories of my mom that Jackie shared in her letter in the binder. Here is just an excerpt: "After we were both married, it was great to live just three doors from you and Mike in Provo. I remember all the fun we had playing UNO, going to ball games, and canning peaches when I had morning sickness so bad that I kept excusing myself. One of the funniest things I remember was when I was in labor with Amber, and you appointed yourself official timer of the contractions. We went to the Wilkinson Center for an ice cream cone, and you even followed me to the ladies room just in case I had another one because 'we have to get them all down on paper.'
I have so many special memories of you and your family that I could probably write pages about it all. I am so glad that we live close so that my kids get a chance to know you and your kids. I think Mike is very lucky and very smart to have married such a special person. I feel very fortunate that he did because I think of you as one of the best friends I have ever had. It seems that everyone who knows you thinks of you as a dear friend, and it is easy to see why.
As I have watched you struggle through this past year, my admiration for you has increased even more. It has been amazing to see your strength and to see you still thinking of others. I couldn't believe that you spent time baking cookies for my birthday the day before you went into the hospital for your bone marrow transplant. I think that meant more to me than any present I have ever received."
I am grateful to Aunt Jackie for capturing such wonderful memories of my mom--not just her own memories, but also those of dozens of family members and friends. What a gift to my mom and what a gift to my mom's posterity! I can't wait to read through every letter in the binder and learn more about the amazing woman that my mom was. I miss her, and reading the letters makes me feel like she is just a little bit closer.
Unfortunately, my mom's battle with cancer wasn't over in 1991, and over the twelve years that she continued to fight, Jackie supported my mom in countless ways--I'm sure we will never know all of the little things she did for my mom and for us in those years. Her last gift to my mother was that she bound the baby quilts that my mom made for us to give to our children. Mom didn't have the energy to finish them, so Jackie did. The blanket that my mom made for me (a colorful little quilt with monsters all over it) is, without a doubt, Noah's most prized possession. It is precious to see him snuggled up to it every night.
Jackie's gifts to my mom actually haven't stopped--because my mom was right when she told me that Aunt Jackie would be there for us whenever we needed her in the years after my mom passed away. She helped with my little sister's costumes for high school musical productions; she taught me how to make a baby blanket for my best friend's baby shower (the same pattern that my mom used for our baby blankets); she made my older sister an amazing pioneer dress for her performing church mission in Nauvoo, Illinois. She has helped with countless events--bridal showers, weddings, baby showers. She has celebrated with us in our triumphs and prayed for us in our trials. She has been an amazing aunt and friend.
Happy birthday, Aunt Jackie! Thank you for everything you did for my mom and continue to do for me. I love you and am so grateful for you in my life!