Summer 2015, for me, was a bittersweet. Summer is usually one of my favorite times of year; however this summer was filled with tragedy, sorrow, and eventually, understanding. I knew Summer 2015 would be different in comparison to previous years once I received a phone call from Mom in regards to my great-aunt’s health.

Sunday, the day after Independence Day changed my life. I was dealing with a hangover from the previous night after hanging out with friends. Still full off the barbecue chicken and the 3 to 7 glasses of Sangria(who could can keep track), when I heard my Mom’s assigned ringtone from my cellphone. I answered the phone and I heard my mom sobbing in the background. To sum up the conversation, my mom told me cancer has spreaded through my aunt’s body and I should make travel plans to see her soon.

Two weeks later, I drove to my hometown of Montgomery, Alabama to visit my aunt. My sister and her family drove down from DC to visit as well. Once we arrived to my aunt’s house, I began having anxiety. Anxious about what her appearance, her mental health, etc.  I’m use to my aunt being the life of the party. Her home was usually filled with laughter, jokes and blues artists such as Denise LaSalle and Betty Wright providing the house’s soundtrack from her stereo system.

Upon entering her house, my worries were relieved. My aunt did not look frail or colorless like I previous imagined. She was still the same hysterical aunt I knew and love just with less body weight. We set at the kitchen table as a family(my mom, aunt, my nieces, my sister’s husband, and my aunt’s daughter) and reminisced over the times we had as a family. We also looked through old family photo albums that showcase every family event: baby births, graduations , weddings, family reunions, funerals, etc. At that moment, I realized that I missed talking and having a relationship with my family.

Unfortunately, my aunt died a few weeks ago. I took her death really hard. Not only was she my great-aunt, she was also like a second mom to me. She, along with my great-grandmother, helped raised me when my mom was going through her issues. My aunt and my mom are the same age(my aunt is my late grandmother’s baby sister).  Honestly, I’m still haven’t come to terms that she’s no longer here physically.  Spiritually, I still feel her presence and I believe she’s my guardian angel.

The last conversation I had with her was one of the greatest conversations I’ve had in a long time and a conversation that I needed to hear my adult life. She told me that loved me and she was proud of me. She also told me to continue to achieve my goals and don’t live my life with regrets.

I don’t think I’ve ever thanked my aunt for everything she’s done. I want to thank her for believing in me when I don’t think no one else did. I want to thank her for teaching me how to write, do math, read, and the value of having an education at an early age. I want to thank her for the multiple ass whoopings and the explanations for those whoopings. Thank you Auntie for influencing my brand of humor and making me smile when I needed it.  Thank you for blessing me with your collection of old blues and soul records because those records have influenced my brand of storytelling. Last but not least, thank you for loving me unconditionally. As long as I have this blog and move on to my other goals, your memories will live through me.

Since my aunt’s death, I made the decision to live my life without any regrets. No more shoulda, coulda, wouldas. Less words, more actions. My aunt spent her sixty-one years on this earth doing exactly what she wanted to do(in my mind anyway). I want to spend the rest of my time on this earth doing exactly what I want to do.No more fear. No more doing what people think I should do.

It took my aunt’s death to wake my ass up and smell the roses. Lowkey, I can feel one of her switches hitting me across my ass and telling me you have goals to reach. Auntie I feel you and I hear you. I will continue to make you proud. Love your nephew, J.D.

Have a family member who has influenced you? Tell us about it below.