When I sat down to write this post, I had an idea of what I wanted to say.
Then I got one of those texts.
If you’ve ever received one, you know what I’m talking about.
The heart sinker. The time stopper.
It was from my dad – one of my favorite aunts passed away over the weekend.
I’m still struggling with it, to be honest. Grief is like a hundred different voices in my head, each yelling at me the “right” way to feel.
Sometimes it feels like riding the least fun rollercoaster ever, where you’re high on good memories one moment and plummeting into sadness with little to no warning.
But this post isn’t about my grief.
It’s about my extreme privilege to have known and been related to my Aunt Chris.
To say that she was a personality is an understatement. She had plans. She had opinions. And boy, did she have stories.
That’s probably what I’ll miss the most… the stories.
Because even if I’d heard that story a hundred different times at various family gatherings, somehow the one I was hearing in the moment was the best version yet.
I can’t even pinpoint how the stories evolved over the years.
I just know that time had a way of stopping when she got deep into the story. Her laughter would call to you from across the room, and you’d check in right around the time she started wildly gesturing and adding in her homegrown sound effects.
I wish I could do justice to what her version of what lightning sounds like.
Somehow the storytelling almost became one-upsmanship, with the aunts and uncles and cousins all vying for the most laughs.
We’d be sitting in a cobbled-together circle of mismatched armchairs, sharing stories and memories, poking fun at the family’s collective tendency to plan our next meal while finishing the one in front of us.
Hours would pass in minutes, or so it seemed. We laughed until late in the night until we’d notice random family members had either passed out in their chairs or quietly slipped out.
Then came the infamous “Colee Exit” where we’d note the hour, say our goodbyes, migrate approximately 5 feet, and then get sucked into another half-hour conversation. Repeat that 3-4 times and we’d finally get out the door about 3 hours after we started the process of leaving.
Looking back, it’s interesting to see how big an impact people can have on you, even if you don’t see each other very often.
When I turned 18, I couldn’t get out of Texas fast enough. College took me all over the country and eventually all over the world. Still I tried to make it home at least once a year – but those rare times when our schedules would sync up were truly a treat.
And I realize how incredibly blessed I am to be able to say I looked forward to family reunions.
Even when distance kept us apart, technology brought us close. Sometimes a little too close LOL. At one point several years back, I had to turn off my Facebook notification emails because Chris and her sister Cathie would routinely hijack my feed. Their joking back and forth would flood my inbox.
At a recent event, I actually noticed myself holding court like Aunt Chris… surrounded by a group of awesome people who were watching me somehow tell a story with my whole body.
The thing I miss the most, the thing I someday hope to do half as well… is her kindness and grace. I don’t think I ever saw her lose her temper or speak an ill word to anyone.
Even when the air conditioner broke down during the family reunion during the heat of a Texas summer. Chris could roll with the punches, and knew every tribulation would make a great story later.
She had one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever known.
And though I’m devastated her chapter has ended well before we’d hoped… I can’t help but look forward. I want to make this story the best version yet.