love and loss, but mostly love

We lost our beloved Aunt Net this morning, after a hard-fought battle against illness.

Despite the pain and discomfort of leaving one's life behind, she maintained her sense of humor and sharp wit. When I spoke with her Saturday afternoon, I asked how she was doing she replied, "Oh, I'm just great!" with a little laugh.

In these last days, I shared many conversations with Drew and other members of our family, reminiscing about fabulous Aunt Net and her colorful life. She rocked an amazing blonde beehive back in the 50s and 60s and threw amazing parties. While the majority of our family lived in rural Tennessee, she resided in sunny Callahan, Florida. We took as many trips to visit her as we could muster, and I distinctly remember spending every birthday of my childhood at the Eastwinds Motel in Jacksonville. Dani (my sister) and I still remember the layout of those motel rooms! Anytime I smell grits and eggs and bacon cooking, I immediately am taken back to those huge family vacations at Eastwinds, and I can see Aunt Net sitting in her lawn chair on the pool deck, talking about how cute she thought boys with earrings were, and Uncle Bob in his shorts. Uncle Bob taught me how to play solitaire (with an actual deck of cards) on my grandparents' kitchen table.

Bob and Nettie were some of the loveliest people you could ever meet. My family probably doesn't want me publicly discussing this, but whenever Uncle Bob passed away, Aunt Net kept his ashes in an urn (knowing that they'd one day be buried together) and anytime there'd be a hurricane, she'd pack up Uncle Bob and head back to Tennessee. Now, there's some "until death do us part... and-beyond" love. They really did just adore each other.

My Granny told me this morning that anytime they saw a red bird, they knew that was Uncle Bob checking in on Aunt Net. Sure enough, a red bird was outside her house just yesterday - Uncle Bob finally came to get Aunt Net and take her home.

When Aunt Net got really sick a few years ago, we knew that any visits she could make back home to Tennessee would be extremely limited. Yet somehow, miraculously the month that Drew and I were to be married, Aunt Net got cleared from her doctor to travel. And so she flew up with her daughter Debbie, and they came to my wedding. I finally got to introduce her ("my favorite aunt!!!") to Drew. I have this one picture, a still shot I snapped from the video footage Kelsey and Jon Bufkin took of her sitting at her table during our ceremony. And it means absolutely everything to me.

We may have lost you physically, Aunt Net, but you're with us every time we think of Florida. Every time I see an orange tree. Every time I step into the ocean. Every time I burn my feet on sand. Every time I see a little toddler with a swimming-suit wedgie. Every time I hear the word "reckon." Every time Drew and I make breakfast. Every time I see a deck of cards. And now every time I see a red bird.