When people tell me aging is just a number, I sigh. Not true. With aging comes the experience of having to say good-bye to friends and family. My dad passed when I was in my mid-20's. After his death my aunts and uncles on my mothers side stepped in to fill the void. Above is the last picture I took of them all together - a Fourth of July get together in South Dakota,
Starting on the left are my Uncle Wes and Auntie Jean who lived in Seattle. When I moved there in 1980, I lived in their home for a year before I found my own place. Jean treated my like a daughter and had endless patience with my messed up 20-year old self. When I got married, it was my Uncle Wes' arm I held as I walked in.
In the middle are my Aunt Lucille and Uncle Melvin. He was a farmer who always had a ready smile and a great laugh. He owned the biggest farm equipment! My kids, when younger, could stand in the wheel wells of his tractor. Lucille was always in the kitchen cooking up a storm including home made noodles. I remember her draping them over the backs of the kitchen chairs.
On the right are my Aunt Shirley and Uncle Arv. We usually stayed with them when we went for visits. Shirley was a great cook who kept us well fed. But best of all, she was always ready to sit and just listen, really listen. What a gift. Arv was a farmer as well and he always took me under his wing when I visited, making me feel special. He taught my kids how to drive a tractor.
I lost six of these beautiful souls starting in February 2016. The last - my uncle Arv - passed just 2 days ago. Every single one of them enjoyed long lives, passing in their 90's, and the love of family and friends. They will never be forgotten. I for one will always hold them close. Thankfully my last two aunts, though in their 90's, are still hanging in there. Just wish I lived closer so I could see them again.
Letting go is an unavoidable part of aging. The part that's not "just a number." And the longer your life, the more letting go you will need to do.