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Lovely Aunt Mary Gullo

My Aunt Mary made her transition this week.

I can only imagine her brothers and sisters, her husband, and the many who loved her just waiting to welcome her into glory.

From left, her brother (the deeply religious) Uncle Bud, her sister (the glamorous and fun) Aunt Helen, Aunt Mary (the baby of the family), my grandmother/her sister Edna, and her brother Dave, who had piercing blue eyes and was a great dancer and singer!

I needed to write about Aunt Mary because I couldn’t say a proper goodbye and my heart was full of feelings.

As a kid, I looked up to her daughters Carol Ann and Mary Beth because they were older and so much cooler than me. Our families often camped together in the summers, taking road trips to Point Sebago, Maine or closer by to Dutch Wonderland. Aunt Mary and Uncle Pete had a truck camper and it was so fun to switch to THEIR ride so we girls could play cards or talk about Bobby Sherman or David Cassidy during the drive.

Once camp was set up, there were so many memories to be made! Teenagers going to the pavilion to play pool (and letting me tag along); the smell of hibachi’s cooking burgers and communal dinners at the picnic table. Roasting marshmallows until the charred skin burnt the roof of your tongue.

Such happy times…before our world changed forever.

Aunt Mary was a central figure after my dad’s sudden passing when I was 10.

Our world was rocked and we were all teetering on the edge of this unknown new life without my father. My mother, suddenly a single mom of a 15 and 10 year old with a host of decisions to make.

In the midst of that madness, Aunt Mary came to stay with us.

I started to write “swooped in” but Aunt Mary wasn’t a swooper.

Her greatest charm was her calm, and oh, how calm was needed in our horrible storm of loss.

She left her own family for almost a month. Sat at our dinner table. Played the piano. Gently reminded us to have faith, without saying a word.

Oh, Aunt Mary’s presence at that pivotal time meant so much to us.

So pretty, wasn’t she? Aunt Mary was, for many years, a bank teller. My dad used to stop by her drive-through window in his mixer truck just to say hi when he was in the neighborhood. And he always used to sing the song “Cab Driver” because it included the line “drive by Mary’s place…”

The years passed and as happens when you get older, it’s easy to get caught up in your own stuff. I sure did.

I’d see Aunt Mary at family reunions in my teens and twenties. There’d be weddings (I’ll never forget Carol Ann’s in the garden at Smithville Inn) and funerals.

When her sister, my Aunt Helen, passed away, I was in the thick of church life and determined to take advantage of this opportunity to “preach the gospel.”

I asked to speak at the services.

Aunt Mary, in her calm and kind way, suggested that I could honor Aunt Helen without making a case for each person’s salvation. At first, I was confused. Aunt Mary was a devout Christian; a true believer!

It wasn’t until years later I realized that a true follower of Christ need not shove their version of the truth down anyone’s throat.

Aunt Mary embodied Christianity, because she embodied love.

She didn’t judge.

She was an accepting, sweet woman whose love deeply touched my life.

Many years after leaving the church I learned that she had breast cancer. All the memories of how she had been there for me and my family over the years washed over me and I made a committment to write to her every week.

I’d print out photos from Facebook or tell tales about my latest adventures in travel. Sometimes I’d just write to let her know she mattered and that I loved her.

The following year, I saw her at my niece, Deena’s, wedding. We had written back and forth preceding the wedding and she voted that I should go with the red dress, which I did.

At one point, she called me aside and said, “I’m all recovered from the breast cancer now, so you don’t have to write to me every week.”

I looked into her sweet, kind eyes and said, “Aunt Mary, I didn’t write because you had breast cancer. I wrote because I love you.”

And that happy ritual – sometimes not every week – but at least every other, has been a dear part of my life ever since.

I remember being a little afraid to write to her when my marriage ended. She – and all of my family – were “’til death us do part” kind of people.

Would she be disappointed?

Her reply?

“I’m proud of you, Brenda.”

Oh, Aunt Mary! Such healing words at such an important time.

I will miss you so much, yet know you are another angel watching out for me.

What a privilege to be your niece.

Aunt Mary is standing right next to my Dad – the third person from the right. Next over is my wonderful grandmother, her older sister, Edna. I don’t believe I was born yet!

I was torn about going to her services because she meant SO much to me.

Jumping on a plane isn’t something any of us do lightly these days, so I prayed about it. I felt her calm and loving presence say, “It’s okay. I know you loved me.”

My wonderful sister, Shirlee, represented our little family at the memorial. She told me that Aunt Mary’s favorite song was sung. Oh how lovely…she now walks in glory with her body and spirit whole…

How glad I am that I have no regrets; I left no words of love unspoken. She deserved them all while she was here to hear them.

A timely and true reminder…to shower the people you love with love.

I hope that you think of your own Aunt Mary…or someone who has marked your life for good.

And shower them with love this week.

xoxoxoxox

Brenda

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