Sunday, September 30, 2007

Rest in Peace, Aunt Kathie

My mother's younger sister died alone in her home in Fremont, Nebraska, sometime within the last day or two***. She was 70 years old.

[***Edited on 10/4/07 to add: It broke my heart to find out from my cousin yesterday that Aunt Kathie apparently died sometime around September 14th, but wasn't found until September 29th, more than two weeks later. I am haunted by this.]

Here is Aunt Kathie as Maid of Honor at my parents' wedding in 1954:

And a more recent photo of her from last year:

Kathie was a heavy smoker and was having breathing difficulties and on oxygen during her last days. The police found her, I assume after being summoned by one of my cousins who couldn't reach her by phone. [***ETA: A neighbor found her, and called the police, who called my cousin who lives in a neighboring Nebraska town.] As of this writing, we don't yet know the official cause of death, but no doubt it was due to natural causes.

Kathie married once, at age 35, and divorced after about 15 years, never having children. Like her other siblings, she was born in Nebraska, but unlike her siblings, she lived there alone for most of her adult life, save for the companionship of one cat or another.

Aunt Kathie always held a special place in my heart, although I can probably count on one hand the number of times she visited us in Virginia. But we've kept in touch -- in "olden times", by snail mail; more recently by email. Other than a few forwarded jokes in recent months, my last newsy email from her was back in December, in response to happy birthday wishes I'd sent her. In it, she mentioned the bitter Nebraska winter, her new cat, and her plans to stay home and watch the Nebraska-Oklahoma football game on television.

Kathie's death has punctuated a week full of bittersweet reminders of the fragility of my parents' generation. On Thursday, my dad received his first treatment for prostate cancer, and because it involved some outpatient surgery, a few of my siblings and I spent a good amount of time with mom & dad on Thursday and Friday. During that time we observed first-hand how mom has advanced another notch in her mid-stage Alzheimer's. She still remembers who we are, thank God, but is starting to confuse the past and the present, and is fabricating some really creative stories. Pretty much every tale she tells now is a mish-mash of the past, the present, and outright fiction, and would be entertaining if it wasn't so painful.

I'm really hoping my parents can attend Kathie's funeral. I've always related to Aunt Kathie possibly more closely than my other siblings have, as I, too, am a single, childless gal who lives alone except for a couple of cats. I would hate to think that if-and-when I die alone, my siblings wouldn't attend my funeral. I do think it's important that my mom attend while she still understands what's going on. Perhaps the event might even make it into her long-term memory, and stay awhile. Or perhaps it's more merciful that she forget, and be spared the grieving.

It's been a tough week.


Liz said...

I'm so sorry Mary. I'll be keeping you in my thoughts, and your parents :)

In the wedding picture, I see a good resemblance between you two.

Nikki said...

Mary, I'm so sorry for your (and your family's) loss.

Having lost two grandparents to Alzheimer's you have my thoughts and prayers for your parents, too.

Robin said...

I'm SO deepest sympathy to you and your family. You are in my thoughts and prayers.
You've written a fantastic tribute to your Aunt.

rho said...

Oh Mary it was a horrible week - my thoughts and prayers going out for you and your family. The picture from the wedding - don't you just love the clothes from then - :D and how great that your Aunt was on the computer and you were able to stay in touch. I'm sure she loved hearing from you. She sounds like she was a super aunt.

Linda Martin said...

Mary, I'm very sorry for your loss... I'll be thinking of you thihs week.

Krista said...

I'll be thinking of you and your family, Mary.

Gina said...

Thinking of look alot like your aunt!

emmy said...

I am sorry for your tough week Mary. I understand what you mean about the fragility of your parents. I am right there with you! I had to take my Dad to his urologist on Friday. and well. you know about my Mom. I think that they are in a very similar place.I hope and pray that all goes well with your Dad's surgery.

I love your Aunt's Maid of Honor picture and I too see you in that picture. It is great that you had a special relationship with her.

Take care...

Anonymous said...

Mary, you have my deepest sympathy on your loss. What a tough week you've had! My thoughts and prayers are with you and with your family. Any chance you'll be able to travel with your Mom & Dad to Aunt Kathie's funeral? Please let me know if there is anything at all that I can do for you!
Mary Jane

Issy said...

I'll be thinking about you & your family this week. Will you be going to Nebraska? I think it was great that she kept in touch with you. She obviously thought alot of you. And yes, you do look like her--it's the eyes.

cdaniele (ravelry) said...

Mary, so sad for your loss and all you are going through.

DEB said...


Anonymous said...

Mary, I'm so sorry to hear of the loss of your Aunt Kathie and of the other hardships your family has suffered recently. You and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers.


Sunflowerfairy said...


It's tough getting old, as my grandmother reminded me over the weekend.

Your family is in my thoughts.

Christina said...

I am sorry to hear about your aunt Katie.

I too believe that you honour a loved one with the grieving. When my aunt passed away over labor day the priest back home (Greek Orthodox) service.

I will keep both you and her in my prayers.

Sandy said...

Mary, My sincere sympathy on losing your wonderful Aunt Kathie! She was a beautiful woman.
And hugs to you for going through so many big traumatic things at once. Remember to breathe.