Aunt May was not really my aunt ... she was my Mum's first cousin but she was always Aunt May growing up and Aunt May she will remain. I remember Mum telling me about their relationship as children. It has always stuck with me. My Mum was the middle of 3 sisters and Aunt May was also in the middle with an older brother and younger sister. The 6 cousins were close growing up and were naturally paired off by age. They did things like exchange gifts with each other according to age. This has become more relevant to me as my brother and I each have 3 children approximately the same ages. It is really neat to see the growing relationships between the cousin pairs and I can imagine what it was like for my Mum growing up with her "special cousin May".
As most of you know, my Mum and Dad were killed in a car accident in 1988. When the will was eventually found and read, they had named my Aunt May and Uncle Alasdair as Legal Guardians to Andrew and I. I think it caught them by surprsie because the request had been made so many years before and then forgotten about. Who ever really expects to be called on to be Guardians to children almost grown and so far away?! The story goes something like this; back in the late 70's Dad took a job in Iran so we packed up the house (again) and headed off on another adventure. The driving habits of the locals were so bad that Mum and Dad took the precautions of making sure their wills were updated before leaving Britain and one of those things was naming Guardians for Andrew and I. A quick phone call to Southampton, a surprised acceptance from Aunt May and Uncle Alasdair, and the deal was done. Little did they know that it wasn't the driving in Iran that would kill them, but here in Canada.
Andrew was 18 at the time and at University so I don't think there was ever really any serious thought given to him moving to England to live with Aunt May and Uncle Alasdair. I was another story though. I was 14, seriously injured myself and - with Andrew away at University - essentially on my own. As much as I dearly loved my Aunt and Uncle, I didn't want to leave Canada. My friends, my brother, my church, my school, ... my whole life was here and leaving it was too much for a 14 year old orphan to consider. Other arrangements were made for Andrew and I but Aunt May and Uncle Alasdair forever assumed a more prominant role in our lives.
In 1989 I took a solo trip to Britain to see the family (show off the fact that I was still alive and could walk mostly) and spent a very enjoyable week (or more - I can't remember exactly now) in Southampton. They took me all over, showing me their little corner of England. I remember being amazed by all that I saw and loving every minute. I just hope I conveyed that to them at the time. 15 year old girls are not always known for their ability to show appreciation!! One day I had the gall to drag Aunt May shoe shopping. She used to talk of that day and laugh/cringe. I guess I dragged her into every shoe store in Southampton!! In 1991 I asked them to come over to see me graduate from High School - a request that seems pretty darn selfish now. How egotistical of me to think that my leaving high school could possibly be important enough to warrant them going to all the expense and bother of travelling half way around the world?! And then to add insult to injury, I think I was so wrapped up in Grad activities that I practically ignored them!! Chalk that up to "things I wish I could re-live and do differently".
After graduation, trips to Britain with stops in Southampton became regular occurances. Andrew and I visited during Christmas holidays in 1991. I popped in for a visit in 1994 before meeting up with a friend in Paris. Then in 1996 I gave up on University and moved to Edinburgh for a couple years. My goal was to get to know my relatives better and through them, figure out my place in the world. There were many visits to Southampton during my time in Scotland. Aunt May and I had many talks over tea and biscuits. She was so wise! And so full of love. Just walking into their home made my heart feel better. I was so troubled during that time. So lost. She and Uncle Alasdair were so wonderful. Their love and gentle guidance helped me more than words can express.
My last visit to Southampton was in September 2004 with Greg and Marley. Added to my many memories (train sets in the attic, walks to jump on the trampolines at the local park, jumping across the upper stairs) are ones with my husband and our first daughter. These have now taken on a much more precious overtone in my mind. I was working on scrapbook pages of that trip when I first heard Aunt May was so sick and I looked down at the photos I'd printed off and came face to face with this one of Marley with Aunt May.
It is made all the more poignant because LC looks so similar to Marley at the same age - it makes it almost seem like a recently taken picture. But I know it's not. Finances and time committments have prohibited Greg and I getting back to Britain since. Something I deeply regret now. Aunt May had so much love and I know it extended to my kids. I just wish she could have met Paige and LC. Paige is turning into such a classic Middle Child and I'm sure Aunt May would have had many words of wisdom and comfort for Greg and I!! And many a laugh too!!
Here are a couple more of Aunt May with Marley. These were taken 5 years ago - May 26, 2005 - when she and Uncle Alasdair came to Canada for a visit. The first is taken down at Spanish Banks in the bucket of a digger that put Matthew and Caleb into spasms of ecstasy due to the fact that it was parked next to our picnic spot!
The next was taken at one of our many Ultimate game nights. Aunt May and Uncle Alasdair were keen to see for themselves what this "Ultimate" thing was that we kept talking about so they came out and watched.
Her funeral and Remembrance service is tomorrow. I had hoped to go but just can't get away right now. My heart will be in Southampton with my family though. Aunt May was such an amazing woman. The embodiment of the word "matriarch". Our family has lost a huge part of it's ... heart and soul. But that is small in comparison to what Uncle Alasdair, Crawford, Rowena, Anna & Jo, Euan, Ruth, David, Ruairidh & Callum, Kenneth, Liz, Jack, Tom & Lucy have lost. Wife. Mother. Mother-in-law. Grandmother. Words can not convey how heavy my heart is for you. I know we can take comfort in knowing that she is with the Lord she served so faithfully all her life. That she is pain free. And that we will see her again someday. Someday seems a long time right now!
Oh Aunt May, I miss you! I could really use your gentle words of wisdom right now. Rest in peace. See you again.
PS - say "Hi" to Mum and Dad for me!