Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Today is my Aunt Beth's birthday. She is my mom's little sister and has always been one of my kindred spirits. She "gets" me, probably because I am a lot like her. She is very sentimental and enjoys discussing life and connecting with others. She is really into figuring out people's personalities, and she and I are both melancholy/blue personalities through and through. The rest of the family laughs at us because of our sentimentality, but hey, at least we have each other! Also, she's a walking contradiction because she's very competent and organized and yet totally scattered and absent minded, just like me. She has been known to misplace her cell phone for days, lock her keys in the car everywhere she goes, leave the refrigerator door open when they leave for vacation, and cook spoons into pans of brownies because she gets distracted by something else while she is cooking. Hahaha! I have never done things like that. ;)
As similar as we are, there is one thing that I really admire about my Aunt Beth that I know I am not very good at, and I strive every day to change and be more like her: She is so good at being fully present for the people she loves. Though she has a crazy busy life as a mother of four and a pediatric physical therapist, she is never too busy for anyone. You could call her day or night--literally--and she would be there for you. If you needed her to come help you through a hard time, she would drop everything and hop in the car to come visit (and she'd probably forget her bag on her way out the door, but "oh well!" she'd say). I am someone who often gets consumed by my to-do list, and I fear that I sometimes make the people that I Iove most feel like I am "too busy" for them, and this is something that I am constantly working on. I often think of my Aunt Beth when I am feeling stressed and too busy, and I remind myself to relax, enjoy life, and be present for the people I love. I am grateful for her example.
When Ryan and I got married in 2005, I wrote a letter of gratitude and love to each of the family members and dear friends who came to our rehearsal dinner. (Hello, melancholy/blue personality!!) I thought I would include a portion of the letter that I wrote to Aunt Beth below because it captures some of my most special memories with her:
"I remember how your family came to be with us every Thanksgiving and/or Christmas. I looked forward to it. I didn’t know anyone (and still don’t!) who was as close to their cousins as we were. I craved my LaBonde time. We would play Knock Out in the drive way (and laugh hysterically at your waddle run), eat Marie Calendar pies, and just enjoy each other. I grew to love your kids like my own brothers and sisters. You and I would sit up late and talk. I remember one night when everyone else went downstairs to watch a movie, and the two of us stayed on the upstairs couch and talked and talked.
I remember one particular day in my junior year of high school when your family was in town for a visit. I was on a medication that was making me very depressed, and you noticed that I wasn’t myself. We lay in the guest room bed, just the two of us, and talked about depression. You told me about your own struggles with depression and anxiety throughout your life. I felt understood. For the first time in a long while, I felt hope that I could get over it. (And I am so grateful that I did!)
And then there was the trip to the beach after Carrie’s wedding. I had just experienced my first taste of love and heartbreak when the boy I was dating at camp had to go back home to Scotland at the end of the summer. I was devastated and lonely, knowing I would probably never see him again. I was only seventeen, and most people didn’t take my heartbreak seriously, but you did. We sat on a bench on the beach, and you told me about when you had had to leave your college boyfriend who had loved you and how you cried and cried. You assured me that I would be okay in the end, and that I would love again. (You were right!) Again, I felt understood. I felt like someone was finally taking me seriously.
I remember trips to your home, when we would all climb into your bed in the mornings and giggle and tell stories. Laughing with the LaBondes—there is nothing better. And of course there were the late nights. Every time we drove home from Provo in college, we would stop in Grand Junction for the night, and we'd stay up until all hours laughing with your family, even the little kids, about some immature or outrageous story.
And of course, there was the afternoon that you and I shared with my mom, her last day on this earth. How can I ever describe that afternoon to anyone else? It was so sacred, just taking care of her and snuggling with her and talking to her about God. I am so grateful that you were by my side in the moment that she slipped away. I don't know what I would've done if I had been alone with her when she lost consciousness for the last time. Thank you for being beside me until my dad and my sisters could get home.
Now you are the person I talk to about my mom. You are the person I talk to about anything serious in my life. Our lives are so busy, so we don’t get to talk often, but I know that I could call you at any moment, day or night, and you would be willing to talk to me.
Thank you for the constant love, support, and understanding you’ve given me throughout my life. I cannot tell you in words how much it has meant to me."
Happy Birthday, to an amazing role model, mentor, aunt, and kindred spirit. I love you so much, Aunt Beth!