My Aunt Diane passed away yesterday. A sudden and unexpected loss.
Diane - sister to my father - was one of seven children who once lived on a sprawling piece of land in Blackstone, Massachusetts. I grew up next door to that home and spent much of my childhood on the same land where she once played as a child.
Back then, my grandparents were still alive and well. Living with them under the same roof were my great grandfather and great uncle, and for a time, my uncle Neil and my aunts Sheila and Diane, who were still young enough to be living at home.
I like to think about the days when Diane and her siblings were children, filling the small house and scattering through the fields and forest that stretch beyond. It must have been a lovely time for my grandparents. A glorious time. Four boys and three girls, young and strong and bursting with life, filling every nook and cranny of that home. So loud and so chaotic and so full of love.
I only caught a glimpse of that time in my aunt Sheila, who was still a teenager when I was little. I would visit with her after school, sitting on the end of her bed, listening to her tell me all about her adventures in high school. By then the rest of her siblings had moved on, but I could see the evidence of a time since past in the wrecks of cars in the back fields, the toys still lingering in corners of the house, and the constant visits from aunts and uncles who still seemed young enough to be in high school.
Young enough that a few of my high school teachers would shout, "Brian!" when angry at me for something I had done.
Apparently my uncle had left an impression on them not easily forgotten.
Seven siblings, so young and full of potential. Kids growing up in an age before the Internet and computers, when so much of life was spent in the fields and forest, under the hoods of enormous cars in an oily garage, and under the water in swimming pools and ponds.
I wish so much that I could go back for a day and see them in their glory. One day to see them as children again, strong and together and unstoppable.
My aunt Sheila died tragically in a doctor's office while receiving a routine allergy shot when she was still very young. My uncles Harry and Neil passed away a few years ago.
Now my aunt Diane has passed.
From seven they are now just three. My father, an aunt, and an uncle. The idea of a family so large and so full of life disappearing person by person devastates me.
Not-so-long time ago, seven small children who would one day become my father, my aunts, and my uncles lived in the tiny town of Blackstone, Massachusetts. They ran and played and laughed and grew. They found work. They fell in love. The sun was warm on their backs and the grass was soft underfoot.
This is how I like to remember them. This is how I will remember my aunt Diane. Young and strong and infinite. I never witnessed the childhood days of those seven children, yet this is how I like to think about them. Imagine them. Remember them. So full of promise and time and life.