Aunt Geri, life threw you a lot of weird curveballs, but you remained irrepressibly happy despite everything. You had such a flair for drama and poetic scenes, so it’s not surprising that you died yesterday in a slightly magical and surreal way. Lounging in a chair on the deck of a cruise ship, gazing out over the Atlantic ocean, fever overcame you. Suddenly, you were gone.
We differed on almost everything, and I’m sure it was as difficult for you to have a nephew as liberal as me as it was for me to have an aunt as staunchly fundamentalist and conservative as you. I never was able to convince you that the death penalty was wrong, but you changed your mind when the Pope said the same. Even though I didn’t see a lot of you in later years, the year we spent tossing political footballs back and forth via email was the year I got to know you the most — despite my wife begging me to stop the dialog to save my blood pressure, I valued that exchange tremendously. Our motorcycle trip to Vancouver will always be one of my happiest adult memories of you.
You were mother to five children, you were the levity and, in many ways, the backbone of your family. And as if five weren’t enough, you and Dennis had enough love in your hearts to take on ten foster children through the years. Not all of those experiences went well, but the fact that you took it on filled me with admiration.
You never missed an opportunity to throw a celebration, and few things meant more to you than getting the family together, despite all of our bitter differences. In fact, my mother met my father at one of your infamous parties, in the early ’60s.
As I write this, your body is in refrigeration down in the hold. In a couple of days you’ll land in Portugal, which you had never seen. Your husband will have you embalmed and shipped back to the States for a proper Catholic burial. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be him right now, alone at sea without the rock of his life by his side. And yet somehow I know that your light will shine for him, and in it he’ll find strength.
Peace and love, Aunt Geri. Forever.