Friday, June 1, 2007


These last few weeks I have had the honour of being with my great-aunt as she was dying. When no one else seemed to understand me and my curiosity about life, Aunt Cherry was there. She took me to the theatre, art galleries, interesting restaurants, and introduced me to her friend who was a wonderfully encouraging writing teacher.
Aunt Cherry lived from December 17, 1921 to May 4, 2007, and this is how I remembered her at the celebration we had in her honour:

Welcome everyone. This isn't supposed to be a funeral but a celebration for Aunt Cherry's life, so I thought we'd begin by coming together in song since singing seems to be part of every great celebration. Are you ready?

Row row row your boat gently down the stream
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.

Doesn't that sound like Aunt Cherry? And if anyone had a dream life, it certainly was her. Aunt Cherry's life was filled with adventure, with love, with beauty, and with family. We should all be so lucky.

I always knew Aunt Cherry as a lover of words. Who else would buy a computer just to play Scrabble? She belonged to a book group and read a vast array of titles. When she cleared out her collection years ago, I got her mythology collection and Deedee got her art collection, and I'm sure many of you here were beneficiaries of her other favourites.

Aunt Cherry may have given up her books, but she never gave up that love even after her eyesight failed thanks to the availability of books on tape. But I didn't know until just a few days ago when we were going through her scrapbook and found one of her stories that she could write so beautifully as well. But that didn't surprise me, for Aunt Cherry was far more interested in talking about others than she was in talking about herself.

When I think of her, the words that come to mind are: delightful, lovely, deeelicious, and marrrrvelous. I can still hear her saying them with such joy and enthusiasm.

Aunt Cherry had been limited in many ways for many years. Arthritis in her hands prevented her from golfing and painting, pain in her hips limited her from walking, and hearing became a problem too. "Shelley's pregnant?" No Aunt Cherry, let's change your hearing aid batteries. But as more and more was taken away from her, what became obvious was that her joy for living was not dependent on good health or specific activities. Her joy for life came from a deeper well, and that flow could not be stopped. In the hospital, Aunt Cherry said to me: God isn't anything. It's just a word. Love is what it's about. Leave it to a lover of words to truly understand that one.

I think every memory we have of Aunt Cherry is saturated with love. The time she came to the girls' weekend at my cottage and cruised on our ragged old barge laughing and drinking and not missing out on any fun. And when she fell out of the hammock and couldn't get up - never a complaint, just a cheery 'help me please'. Then there was the time she invited the whole Morris clan to brunch at her club for no other reason other than to bring us all together. And then there were the Christmas parties where the Jewish side got to experience tinsel, and presents and - shhh - ham.

Aunt Cherry, like the universe, was always expanding. She travelled the world, went to foreign films, attended lectures and kept up with current events, yet she had this rare gift that separated her from mere intellectuals. Aunt Cherry had a talent for seeing the strength in people. Someone could go on and on, yapping about themselves and her remark would be: isn't she full of life. How lovely.

Through her actions, Aunt Cherry taught us how to look past the judgements and find the beauty in everyone and everything. Every weed and every person had something wonderful within worthy of praise and respect. What a wonderful legacy she has left us. Even in her dying, she showed us how to live. She was given three days but stayed around for ten. Savour life: even when it is pain-filled it is precious and worth fighting for. Savour it all. It's all a gift. You know, maybe we all loved to spend time with Aunt Cherry because when life seemed like a nightmare, she would always so warmly invite us into her loving dream. Aunt Cherry is no longer with us, she is in us, and we will always be - merrily, merrily, merrily - in her dream right here in our hearts.

Thank you Aunt Cherry.

I wish everyone could be so fortunate to have an Aunt Cherry in their lives.