For the third time in little more than three weeks, I am posting about death. I'm hoping not to do that again anytime soon.
This time it was my Aunt Nina, who passed away yesterday. She was my father's sister, the first of nine children, and she had recently turned 92 years old. Of those nine siblings, Nina was the one I knew least. The others were still around Springfield, Missouri, when I was growing up there, but Nina had moved away. I'd met her, of course, at family gatherings on holidays, but hadn't spent any time with her before we moved away ourselves.
Then, about five years ago, we began talking, first by phone and then by email. I was charmed by her intelligence, her wit, and the stories she told so well. She gave me pieces of the puzzle that, up until then, had been my father's side of the family.
Thinking about Aunt Nina today, I thought about the details in all those emails she sent. I thought about how fragile life is, how quickly things can change, how people and things we take for granted can be lost to us in an instant. Time is fleeting, my friends. People die, computers crash, and first thing you know, there's no one to answer those questions you've been thinking about asking.
And so I began scrambling. Aunt Nina's emails were stored on an old PC, one that I'd retired a couple years ago when viruses slowed it to a crawl. Fortunately, I still have that old PC. Today I fired it up, poked around until I found those emails, and printed every one of them. For good measure I printed all the ones from my Uncle Glenn, my Aunt Shirley, and my cousins, Karen and Sandra, because they, too, had written to me about my father's family. It took a couple of hours and nearly a whole ream of paper, but when the last page came out of the printer, I felt like I could relax again.
I'm glad I got to know Aunt Nina. I'll remember her especially for the enthusiasm and sense of humor with which she told me her stories. I'll also try to remember the little piece of advice with which she concluded most of her emails: "Keep smiling and keep dancing."