Today my great-aunt turns 90 years old. She’s not very fond of having her photo taken lately (this one was taken last Christmas) and she’d be completely shocked if she knew that her photo was on the Internet, so it’s probably a good thing that she doesn’t have a computer, but how can I not share her picture with you on this very special day? Doesn’t she just look like the sweetest old lady? That’s because she is (!) and I really miss her.
I walk around with a heavy heart today knowing that I can’t see her and give her a big hug to let her know how much she means to me. (I did send flowers and a little love letter to her through Fleurop, though. I also sneaked out at work for a bit to talk to her on Skype. Thank goodness for modern technology!)
If you would ask her about her birthday, she would say to you that she never intended to reach this age and that it’s really no fun to grow that old, but she always keeps that twinkle in her eyes when she says it which makes me believe that she must be half-joking.
While I do believe that she has her daily obstacles (her vision and hearing is slowly getting worse, daily routines take her longer than she would have ever anticipated, she walks slowly and she needs help with cleaning and shopping), I think there is something to be said about someone who is 90 years old and still lives in her own apartment (on the third floor without an elevator, mind you!) and who is still pretty sharp in her mind.
My great-aunt has always been a very important part of our family, even more so since my (paternal) Grandma – her sister – died when my sister and I were only 6 years old. Ever since then, my great-aunt has been like a grandma to us. She never had children of her own, which really is a shame, because I believe she would have been a great mother, but has always been very close with my dad and uncle and our family and she’s done so many wonderful things for all of us over the years. She is one of the kindest people I know and she’s always lead a very selfless life and always served others (most of all our family).
“Once you begin to acknowledge random acts of kindness
– both the ones you have received and the ones you have given –
you can no longer believe that what you do does not matter.”
Sometimes I feel a little guilty for living so far away, for not being able to return all the love and kindness that she has continuously shown us over the years and that she still shows us today. She’s often frustrated with the fact that she needs our help and that she can’t really do any favors in return anymore, which is when I like to remind her that she’s given us so much and that it’s now our turn to give back to her. I am relieved to know that she’s so loved and well taken care of, because so many old people don’t have this kind of family support these days and are probably very lonely.
In the case of my great-aunt, I can only say that we love her dearly and are so very thankful for every additional year that she will hopefully be part of our lives!