Yesterday my beloved 88 year old Auntie Bea died. I have been taking care of her over the last year, and I will miss her dearly. Everyone should have an Auntie Bea. Never married and without children of her own, her 6 nieces and nephews and her 4 great nieces and nephews were the light of her life. The joy she took from hearing about all of our accomplishments, the understanding she gave when hearing about our low points, and the many many stories that she told that were the gateway to our family's history are all permanently living in all of us.
My Auntie Bea was the fun aunt. The person you looked forward to just "beaing" with from childhood to adulthood. Whether trips to the movies, or bowling, being taken out to lunch or dinner, or just talking and schmoozing you had her undivided attention. She lived with and took care of her own parents until they both died, and was loving and devoted to her three "big" sisters. Though the baby of her family, she was the person everyone turned to for help and support. And she always always gave it, no matter what, without complaint or looking for anything in return. One of the truly selfless people I know.
Though not a parent herself, she instinctively knew what kids needed, and as we grew through the lifespan to adulthood, continued to give everyone of us unconditional love and support. Never judgement or even advice, just a loving presence, that was her "present" to all of us.
As parents often we forget the gift of just "beaing" with our kids, thinking that we can't miss a moment to instruct, teach, and prepare our kids for the future. Sometimes it's those non-moments of playing, joking, eating, and hanging that end up being the most instructive and long lasting, just like with my Auntie Bea.