Sunday, June 24, 2012

Not a Good Day for Soap

An interesting week has come to a close.

Wednesday a busload of energetic, excited to be on a real farm grade school kids from Chicago came to visit. But I will blog about that latter.  Thursday, a cowardly thief, robbed our farm store, in broad daylight. But no one was injured so I will blog about that later as well. Friday, my dear 93 year old aunt, Bernadette Clare O'Shaughnessy died. I will blog about that now.

My Aunt Bernie with my 3 grandchildren. March 2012

It was shocking but not at all unexpected, not at her age and her heart health, yet we had gotten so used to her being such a big part of our daily lives we just maybe didn't think it would happen so soon.

I was on my way to visit her as I do often, and just as I was getting ready to knock on the door of her room at the assisted living facility where she lives, a staff member stopped me. My first thought was she has fallen but a deeper look into the nurses eyes and I knew it was one of those permanent falls.
They had just found her about ten minutes before I had arrived.

I helped them clean her and put new PJ's on her because I am a nurse and it's what I do.

I called my sister Mary first because she is my right hand sister when it comes to Aunt Bernie. And the rest is Aunt Bernie's history.We cried and laughed and starting packing some of her things and made coffee and tea and decided who would take the coffee maker home. We discussed how tiny our aunt now looked after being such a huge presence in our lives. Coroner came, good to see an old friend again, evening nurse popped in to give us her condolences, I took care of her mother in hospice years ago,funeral home staff came and went.

Mary and I helped move our aunts body onto the stretcher and Mary buckled her in one last time. Safety first you know.

Yesterday she and I met with the funeral home and made the simplest plans. No wake, no viewing. Inexpensive casket and no reason to dress her in new clothes. Her PJ's would serve her just fine, the suit will go to someone living who can put it to better use.

Tomorrow will be phone call day. Medicare, The VA, her pharmacy, etc etc... Tuesday and Wednesday I expect we'll be cleaning her apartment and diving her belongings into those well known boxes marker To Keep, To Throw Away, To give Away.

On Thursday we will gather in the same cemetery her parents and one of her sisters, the one who never grew up due to Down Syndrome, the same sister my Aunt dedicated her life to, are buried. The service will be facilitated by us, her family as she had not developed a relationship with any clergy or priest since she left the Chicago area.

We will share some prayers, some stories and then as is routine for this O'Shaughnessy family we will sugar coat things with a little pie and coffee.

On Friday, the day I most often made my visits to her, I expect I will feel lost. I won't have any laundry to do or meds to pick up or bills of hers to pay. Not that there was that much anyway. She lived a simple life. She would only let us do a few pieces of clothing at a time, a little housekeeping each week. But still, my routine that is Bernie is now gone and what I will really miss is the way she called my GK's "honeybun", they way she always worried about my workload, the way she rarely complained.

My Aunt was amazing. She turned down the proposal of man she loved deeply knowing she would be needed to care for her sister Teresa. She felt if she married she would not have enough time, energy and emotion to care for a husband the way she felt men deserved to be cared for.  But while caring for her sister and her father until his death, she also stayed involved in all of our lives.

She taught me about family finances. If a sibling of hers needed help she gave it freely.
She taught me manners. (Those lessons haven't always stuck with me)
She taught me that working hard was expected and not necessarily something to be rewarded
She taught me that obligation to family was a privilege, not a burden
She taught me to give more than I take (another skill still in the works)
She taught me to laugh at myself.
She taught me humility.
She taught me about Christs love in the way she loved so many others.

She wasn't perfect. She could be sharp tongued and opinionated. She loved to argue, especially about the taboos topics, like politics, religion. She got furious if she heard me being mouthy to my parents.
She was bossy and pushy and stubborn and if my kids are reading this they now know where I picked up those attributes.

She was also the very best aunt in the world.


  1. I'm sorry to hear about the loss of your Aunt, but glad that you have some of her with you in the form of memories and good habits (and maybe a few little bad habits, but hey, who's perfect!).

  2. Very sorry to read this. A good Aunt can be a wonderful thing.... I know, because I had one too.

  3. I'm sorry to hear this sad news. Of course, it is not exactly unexpected, as you say -- but still a shock. My own mother is now 93 and lives so far away from me -- how fortunate your Aunt was to have you so close and loving and how fortunate for you to have these wonderful memoriesof her and a family who shares them with you

  4. I'm so sorry, lady. This has been a week of losses all over the place. I hope I can be as awesome of an aunt (and as practical!) as yours was.

    Peace today and always.

  5. May she rest in peace and reap her reward.

  6. I'm so sorry to hear of yor loss, but what a wonderful post you've done in your Aunts honor. It sounds as though she was truly amazing.

    Hugs and blessings,

  7. What an amazing tribute to your wonderful Aunt. How truly lucky you both were to have had such a close relationship.

    Hugs and prayers for all.

  8. What a wonderful Irish Auntie you are blessed with. May she rest in peace. Peace be with you.

  9. what a woman. and what a niece she had, too. you were a blessing to her as well...

    i am sorry for your loss.

  10. my thoughts are with you.... no ,matter how old dear ones are... the upset is still the same
    take care my friend x

  11. I'm so sorry for your loss. She sounds like a very wonderful woman.

  12. I am sorry for your loss. But I am happy for your memories. What a delightful woman!

    May we always strive be such a wonderful influence on others. You were truly blessed.

  13. I am so very sorry for your loss. My deepest sympathies.

  14. I'm sorry for your loss. Your tribute was lovely. I am hoping for comfort for you and your family.

  15. Donna, that was beautifully written.
    I'm sorry for your loss. Take comfort that she is in a better place now.


  16. My condolences to you and your family. Death can be very hard and very rewarding. My father passed away last night. He had in-home hospice care and they had made the experience a very peaceful one and he was able to complete his final wishes by having his last day at home being surrounded by family. It was an experience that I will never forget.

  17. So sorry to hear about your aunt and she sounds like a wonderful woman. You will be in my thoughts and prayers.

  18. So sorry for your loss. She sounds like an amazing person! I know you will miss her.

  19. Oohhhhh Donna, there are tears in my eyes reading this. Somewhere in the shadow of my mind, I am recalling my father.

    Family is so precious and it seems another era of remarkable humans are being lost. Your Aunt sounded like a grande dame of a lady. I know few who would actually turn down a Sweetheart's proposal. She must've been something.

    Big hugs across the miles, and call if you ever need!

  20. Felt as though I knew Aunt Bernie from your wonderful stories. Thank you for sharing your life with us, Donna. Goodbye Aunt Bernie.


  21. Donna, like others, i too am sorry for your loss. I also had a wonderful aunt who taught me much before she left.

    I'm glad you were able to have her with you for so long.


  22. So sorry for your loss. :-(