My Aunt Gloria left this world the other day. 84 years young and full of life right up until the end despite hauling around an oxygen tank.
Though I knew her most of my life, I don't recall any real conversations with her as a young girl visiting my cousins in their Queens Village.
In fact, I think the first time my aunt came to life for me was at the memorial gathering for my own mother when I was almost 50! We found ourselves sitting on a couch together and ended up having a really interesting conversation about how she quit smoking and drinking years back. It turned out that she was one of those rare people who could make up her mind to stop doing something and then just stop doing that thing. Like flipping a light switch from on to off, she quit smoking and drinking with little backslide or drama.
After the service I remember thinking that besides the opportunity to reconnect with my wonderful cousins who were rallying to take care of the details of my mom's wake, that fifteen minute conversation was one of the great gifts that came from that sad occasion. All because of her mantra.
Of the over 300 mantras in my Pocketful of Mantras book, only a handful are credited directly to the person who said them first or made them famous. Mostly these attributions were for authors or famous scribes like the Dalai Lama. But #91 came straight from my wise Aunt Gloria.
It was not a hearts and flowers saying. Not a mantra for the squeamish. But it is, in my opinion, one of the greatest wisdoms to keep up front and present every day so as to live our best lives. For some its truth is too 'in your face", too distressing. But for me, it was so powerful that I felt compelled to give her credit in the book.
I remember exactly how she offered it to me. I asked her how she was able to so instantly, so easily, choose a new course—like quitting a two-pack a day smoking habit cold turkey—or even just deciding to say 'yes' to lugging her, now ever-present, oxygen tank out for ice cream with her grandkids. Shrugging her shoulders and tilting her head slightly, she leaned over and in her beautiful, raspy, matter-of-fact, New York drawl said, "Well I'm gonna be a long time dead."
I flew in for my Aunt Gloria's funeral. It felt important for this family love to come back around to my dear cousins and return the hugs they gave me when my own mom died. But I guess I also wanted to honor a woman whose brilliant, hard-earned, heart-filled life left an unexpected and beautiful mark on my own by being witness to when her mantra, sadly came true.
She will be missed but not forgotten. Rest In Peace Aunt Gloria