Sunday, September 8, 2013

The First Week of School 2013 pt. 2

So after having had my iPhone 5 stolen from my apartment, I still had to finish my room prep and get lessons ready for the kids. All this was exponentially more difficult because I was dealing with the fact that my aunt Jackie was in her last days on this earth. I contacted family and let them know how to get in touch with me should The News need to be shared before I could find another form of telephonic communication.

The first few days of school went pretty well. My kids are really sweet this year and seem so eager to succeed and learn. All my effort in my room for the past 3 weeks seems to be paying off. By Tuesday, though, I was exhausted from a jam packed day that marked the halfway point of the world's longest first week of school ever. I hadn't had a single minute that day to go to the bathroom, much less check email so I was signing in to my gmail as my principals were introducing the topics for discussion during the day's after-school staff meeting (sorry Dave and Jamie). I had a 3-hour-old email from my mom saying that I needed to call home ASAP.

I grabbed the Mister's iPhone and sneaked out of the meeting. Thankfully my sister intercepted my finding out about my aunt's death by way of a hasty facebook post from a family member. "Don't go on facebook! Don't let Amber go on facebook!" her message read as I was opening Viber to call my mom. Thank you, Sister, for protecting me from having my worst fear in this situation being realized.

At around 4:30 in the morning on Tuesday, as I was frantically eating my lunch between classes in Kuwait, my aunt Jackie passed away surrounded by her family in her South Carolina hospital bed.

Aunt Jackie, on the right, with my aunt Suzanne and my Grandaddy. 

My aunt Jackie was the cool aunt (sorry Aunt Suzanne). All the cousins fought for her attention at Christmas gatherings, trying to be the one she loved the most. It wasn't possible, of course, because she loved all of us as if we were her kids, and told us how proud she was of all of us every chance she got. She was an amazing mother to two great kids and a loving wife to the most devoted husband I have ever met. She and my uncle Raddy were the personification of a Godly marriage. He sat beside her as she fought breast cancer over 18 years ago and was her support system again as her body was ravaged by stomach cancer for the past 10 months. She continued to work between chemo sessions, refusing to let cancer be the defining feature of her last months of life. When it became apparent that the cancer was going to win this time, she was inundated with family and friends coming to share their love and support her husband and kids.

All things considered, I think I handled the news pretty well. I had a small meltdown in the hallway and was comforted by one of the school's cleaning ladies as I went to the bathroom to clean up my mascara-smeared face. I went back to the staff meeting and pretended everything was ok (I don't think I fooled anyone).

I only had one breakdown in front of the kids who were so sweet as I explained why I couldn't finish a coherent thought the next day. I FaceTimed with family throughout the rest of the week and stayed home to have a few good cries on Thursday night as my family was attending my aunt's visitation. They messaged me photos of the hundreds of people who came to share their sympathies with Jackie's husband and kids. My sister estimated that about 1,500 people walked through the line as my grandparents, my uncle Raddy, and Jackie's two kids were surrounded by their love for almost 5 hours. What an amazing testament of a life well lived.

That was my aunt Jackie. I dread facing the void left my her absence when I visit South Carolina next summer. In the mean time I will celebrate the honor of being the niece to the coolest aunt around.

Vicariously yours,

1 comment:

  1. I love you, my baby girl. So wish I could wrap my arms around you.