This week, Marie Ennis O’Connor from Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer gave the blogging community the following writing prompt: What gift did you most enjoy receiving?
This is a difficult question to answer, as I have been blessed enough to have had many wonderful gifts during my lifetime. But as the first anniversary of my Aunt Helene’s death is quickly approaching, I would have to say I’ve most enjoyed having her in my life. She has been a great gift to me, and every day I am thankful she was a huge part of my life for so many years.
The best gift she ever gave me was unconditional love. Throughout my entire life, she was a positive, non-judgmental force and influencer in my life. She loved me for who I was — despite my imperfections — and I believe that somewhere, perhaps, she’s still giving me this amazing, palpable love. During my life, my worries were her worries, and my successes were her successes.
She loved and supported me through life’s nastiness. Like my divorce. Like breast cancer.
When my husband and I divorced, she never judged me; instead, she treated me with kindness and the utmost empathy. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I went alone to treatments. Some friends and even family members abandoned me. But my aunt never abandoned me. She was a breast cancer survivor and knew what having breast cancer meant. Even if she never crossed paths with this disease, she would still never have abandoned me.
She loved me.
During diagnosis, prognosis, and treatments, I would often call her hysterically, telling her I knew I was going to die from breast cancer. She kept insisting I would be OK, even though, of course, nobody could predict the future. Her reassurance was a lifeline to me. Years later, she told me she had stayed calm for me, but when she hung up the phone, “I completely lost it, hon.” I can’t imagine how difficult it was for her to witness the suffering of someone she loved so much.
And, when life was good to me, she celebrated with me. When Ari came into my life, my aunt felt such pure joy for me, and she fell in love with my new daughter immediately. Helene’s love for me extended to Ari, and my aunt waxed poetic about her to everyone. When I was in China, Helene and I would email each other frequently, communicating about my new daughter. My aunt wanted to know every detail about her, and she oohed and aahed over each picture of Ari that I sent her.
This post has been difficult to write, as I’m experiencing a new grief surge as the anniversary of my dear Aunt Helene’s death approaches. Every day for the past year, I keep waiting to hear her voice on the other end of the phone, saying enthusiastically, “Hi Beth!” She always — and I mean always — looked forward to speaking with me and visiting with me.
My Aunt Helene taught me how to love, and I’m a better, more loving person and a better, more loving parent because of her than I would be had I not had her in my life. I know what unconditional love is because of her, and for this gift, I am most grateful.
What has been your most enjoyable gift? Even if you don’t blog, feel free to describe it as a comment.
Tags: Aunt Helene, breast cancer, gift, grief