Last October my favorite aunt passed away after a long battle with bladder cancer. She wanted to be cremated and opted not to have a service so I wanted to honor her with a post here. I had this half-written and decided to hold off (you’ll see why by the end). :)
Roma began dating my uncle when I was 3 or 4. My uncle Warren is my dad’s older brother who drove truck for a living until retiring a few years ago (not by choice, he loved roaring down the road!). He settled in Michigan shortly after meeting her. She was feisty and fabulous with curly red hair and a sweet southern drawl. I loved her. She and my uncle visited several times when I was little. In first grade she taught me how to multiply (way before my classmates, I felt so smart!). In high school my family drove out to Michigan to stay with her and my uncle. It then became a summer tradition and one of my favorite memories. Roma could take a joke (like the time we dyed her then white hair red….only to discover we used too much and it came out fire engine red!). In college my mom and I would have “girls trips” and spend a week in October with her appreciating Michigan foliage and exploring the Midwest.
She was always up for an adventure…like finding Eminem’s recording studio in the notorious 8 mile section of Detroit or hunting for Michigan’s best ice cream sundae at Woody’s in Royal Oak….(but we have to start from her sister-in-law’s house or else she’d get turned around). Her life mantra was “You might not pass by this way again” – which could justify anything from a quick stop at a yard sale or a radical life decision. No matter what the circumstance you could sum up your next move with “you might not pass this way again” – so why not do it?! So many times it was true. We’d take one road to go someplace and come home a totally different way – missing the cute coffee shop or some great sunset over an open field. In life I often find myself wanting to say or do something then hemming and hawing until I’ve missed my window. In 2012 I adopted this as my mantra and I had postcards made up so I could hang them everywhere as a reminder:
She didn’t care for TV (except for Oprah, she just loved Oprah) but she was amazed by the career Derek and I both chose. She loved hearing crazy work stories and she loved to know how things work behind the scenes. I remember sitting with her one summer night in Michigan while we were both up too late explaining how green screens work – she was just fascinated.The last time I saw her was on a work trip in June of 2013. I convinced my sales manager at the time that we should drive from Chicago to Detroit to see my customer – and see my family. When we got there she was in the hospital and I remember being struck by the juxtaposition of her frail body and her sharp mind. She wanted to know if there was a boy in my life (there wasn’t and she was sad to hear this, LOL), how work was, how Mom/Dad/Derek were and more important what awesome things I had seen – because I might not pass this way again! I told her about driving to get fresh peaches in Atlanta (because the peach is the epitome of Atlanta!), heading 2 hours outside LA to find a store that sold funky recycled jewelry and the extensive collection of Starbucks mugs picked up by friends all over the globe (from Oslo to Dubai to Singapore). I was proud to say I was living our shared mantra!
I’m a huge fan of self-improvement and I shared with her the book I had just finished, “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin. I decided to make my list of my personal commandments; it had to make the list. :) She loved it and we shared a laugh about how hard it can be to let things go.
Since there wasn’t a funeral or wake my family mourned in our own way – releasing balloons the day she passed and on her birthday and taking time to appreciate the little things (like perfect sunsets and car rides with great sing-a-long playlists). We talk about her often and laugh – because so many Aunty stories end in hilarity.
A few months ago Derek decided he was ready for his first tattoo – after some back and forth…I decided to take the plunge and join him. I’ve always been a fan of tattoos but super indecisive when it came to actually permanently adorning my body with one. I spit-balled some ideas with my friend and personal Photoshopper, Tyler. He took my disjointed ideas and created this amazing piece:
I was in love. We scheduled our appointment with Jaesun, an artist our friend G uses and on August 22nd I came home with this on the back of my right shoulder:
Perfect. Just perfect!
On our drive home from getting tattooed I found myself especially weepy – somehow it felt so real that she was gone and I couldn’t call and tell her about the art or about this boy I met and fell for (but still haven’t confessed my feelings for, LOL)… Through my tears I noticed “Roma Bakery” on our left – which made me smile – then a giant sign advertising “Berry Smoothies!” on my right. I took that as a little sign that she could see us and appreciated the tribute! <3
Rest in peace Roma “Aunty” Berry (November 18 yearshallnotbementioned ~ October 26, 2013), I hope you’re doing all your favorite things (putzing in the garden, eating dessert for dinner, taking long rides and stopping at every bend to explore!). Oh and your age will always be your secret with Mom! ;)