This month marks the three-year anniversary of my Aunt Linda’s passing. Three years since our lives were turned upside down. Three years since everything changed. Because you see, Linda was the one who really held the family together like glue. She would make sure that a holiday wouldn’t go by that someone didn’t have a place to be. She would be the one who would make sure she “showed up,” even when it was probably the hardest for her to get there.
I get asked a lot why The Linda Project? It’s simple. Linda left a mark on my life and I want to honor her everyday. I am the youngest child in my family and I have two older brothers. A lot of times growing up, I felt invisible. There were always bigger things going on in my brother’s lives, like graduation, marriage, and children. I completely understand that we needed to celebrate and focus on “the big things,” but for a 10-year-old girl it didn’t feel any less hurtful or lonely. But, when I was with my Aunt Linda I didn’t feel that way.
I remember one time she had picked me up and I had a sleepover at her house. The next day she took me shopping at Pier One (yes, I remember this vividly), and then brought me home. It was a Sunday morning and my mom always made a late brunch and the house was loud and full. I had bought a few items with my own money and I was so excited to share them with my family. I kept talking about it, but no one was paying attention to me. Finally, Linda yelled at them and said, “Jenna’s excited about what she bought, can’t you just look at it?” Up until then, I never felt that anyone was ever screaming for me.
Time continued to pass and soon I was a teenager and Linda had become a mom of two adorable kiddos. Our sleepovers were far and few between, but it didn’t matter because she always made sure that I knew she cared. There wasn’t one time that I’d leave a gathering without Aunt Linda telling me that she loved me. She always made sure to ask about my life and make sure I was doing OK.
I know I’m painting a pretty idyllic picture of Aunt Linda, so…I have to add…was she a complete pain in the butt sometimes? Yes! Did she love to nag us about stuff? Yes. Was she perfect? No. But, she was my Aunt Linda and that was more than enough.
Aunt Linda was sick with scleroderma for much of my life. I knew that she wasn’t going to have as much time as others, especially once she got cancer. Her body was already weak from all of the other medication for the scleroderma that fighting off the cancer was going to be even harder for her. So, knowing all that, why didn’t I make sure that I told her everything that she needed to hear from me? I always told her that I loved her, but there was more to say.
I visited Aunt Linda during her last days in hospice. I’ll never forget when she woke for a few moments, heard my voice, and said “there’s my girl.” I don’t know if she knew it was me, or thought it was her daughter, or someone else, but I’ll never forget it. Why, didn’t I say in that moment what I yearn to tell her today? I think it was because I wasn’t ready to accept what saying it would mean. She was going to be gone soon.
Well, Aunt Linda, I wish I could have said it three years ago, but thank you. Thank you for loving me, for making me feel special when others didn’t, and for being a person I’ll always be able to think of and smile.
Friends, sometimes the words that mean the most to others are the hardest to say. Maybe it’s telling your daughter or son that you’re proud of them. Maybe it’s saying you’re sorry. Maybe it’s telling that special someone you love them. Whatever it is, I pray that you’re able to tell that person and bless not only them, but yourself. I pray that you’ll never have to sit at your computer three years too late wishing you would have said two simple words, thank you.
Blessings to you and yours,
Three items I’m thankful for:
My aunt Linda
Having the courage to share today
For my big, loud, extended family