[Written: Friday, October 25, 2019]
I was once asked the question of who my favorite aunt was at a birthday party when I was about seven or eight years old. Not realizing that I could lie, or give a generic answer, I blurted out that Aunt Rosie was my favorite. That was the truth. I couldn’t lie – my innocent child-self wouldn’t let me.
Maybe it was because she was my godmother or with her being my only blood aunt, my mom’s sister. But the more important reason was that my aunt was always there. She was part of family vacations and all sorts of different events when we were growing up. Simply put, I think for Paul, Ashley and myself, she was our second mom. She made our halloween costumes as kids, attended our plays and concerts. She was a constant on Dyngus Day outings and the staple to Wednesday dinners and Sunday lunches. She was always keeping us entertained.
Truth be told, I didn’t appreciate the place my aunt held in my life until now, now that she is gone. It’s because her presence was so accustomed to me. She was always there and that constant presence was easy to get used to. It was easy to take for granted.
I remember when my aunt took a trip to Las Vegas and came back with all sorts of photos from an exhibit from the Wizard of Oz at the MGM. The little kid I was, I thought that my aunt actually visited the Land of Oz and how cool was that that she came back to show me photos. The truth is, my aunt took time out of a trip for herself to do something for me. But even more so, she did it because she loved it, too. She loved anything we loved. She knew I loved the movie. It was the first thing I ever really fell in love with. It was my aunt, in fact, who had the film on VHS and popped it into the VCR in my mimi’s kitchen and had me amazed when the film went from black and white to technicolor magic.
I’m reminded of these little things that were enormously meaningful to me as I saw my aunt become a great aunt to her newest great nieces, Victoria and Evelyn. At the instant Tori would step foot in the room, my aunt was ready to play, sing or paint. That goes to show the joy she had in her to make someone else’s day better and more joyful. She did it every day as an early childhood educator. She did it as our kooky aunt with corny jokes. Her life was spent making those around her smile, laugh, and feel joy. Her presence in our lives was so incredible and that is why our grief right now is so deep and hard to comprehend.
This eulogy was written to describe Rosie in who she was as an aunt. But as a sister and daughter she was the caregiver, always putting everyone else before herself, always making sure everyone was taken care of. I know my uncles, my mom, my mimi can think of a thousand more ways of how incredibly wonderful Rosie was.
But truth be told she was so incredibly influential to the many children and families she served at Westminster Early Childhood Programs and prior to that at Roswell Park. I received a message yesterday from a parent of one of her students and I couldn’t help but feel this was the perfect way to describe my aunt.
“Hi Matt, you don’t know me but I found you posted about your Aunt. I want you and your family to know what a wonderful influence she was on my 2.5 year old son. She was the lead in his room last year at Westminster, and not only did she have an amazing knack for connecting with these children, but he truly fell in love with her. He talked about her every day after school and he continues to ask about her, now, a year after he moved out of her room. When he recently saw her in the hall he ran and gave her a hug like she was in our family. I saw Rose daily for over a year and I genuinely enjoyed talking to her about her weekend and the love she had for her nieces and nephews and their babies. We were so excited when we heard our daughter was going to be in her room starting January and are heartbroken by the devastating news of her passing. I just wanted you to forward along to your family the enormous impact Rose had with so many families. I am sorry for your loss, I can’t even imagine how many families are heartbroken by this news. I hope you and your family find peace during this time. She will be missed by many.”
I could not have put better words about my aunt together, than what this wonderful mother did. We will miss you so much Rosie. But now we can honor your memory by following your example. Of course, we will make sure Stella, gets some pizza crust, and we will try some way to make sure someone calls Mimi’s Bingo numbers. But more importantly, we will do our best to make each other smile, and feel joyful as you always did for us. And when we get down and sad because you’re not here we just have to think like Dorothy did in the Wizard of Oz that you’re just somewhere over the rainbow…
Where trouble melts like lemon drops
High above the chimney top
That’s where we’ll find you.