To honour the passing of my Godmother, I decided to post this again.
I am not one to lecture anyone on the topic of family values. Up until a year ago, my career as an academic was priority number one. I left home at 21 to begin my doctoral training half a continent away and never looked back. Granted, the weather in Iowa is dreadful. I am well armed with memories of Iowa mornings cold enough to curl your nose hair that prevent the odd sentimental moment.
From PhD student to postdoc, to lecturer, to research fellow I moved around the world chasing the elusive title of Professor. As a result, my relationships with the members of my family grew distant. Likewise, I made great friends everywhere I lived, but each time I left, the inexorable erosion exacted by time and distance carved ever-widening ravines. (Stay with me, this is not the depressing lament of a failed academic.)
As I write this, my aunt lies in hospital wrestling with her mortality. I have nothing but love for my godmother. She always treats me with kindness, feeds me a seemingly unending supply of crab rangoons from the local shop, and provides support whenever needed. She has three wonderful kids that I looked up to the few occasions my family came to visit when I was young. What I remember most about those times is the laughter. Visiting my family at 6 Woodside Drive was like bathing in a pool overflowing with love. Sure, there were moments of pain as the odd baseball impacted my cranium, or the memorable visit of the woman I still call ‘The Evil One.’ Even so, I always came away from our visits feeling a deep connection that has stood the test of time. Decades before email, the world-wide web, blogging, Facebook or Skype were available, I always knew I was a valued member of that family as well.
Perhaps looking back now, my memory is biased. I’m sure my cousins have a very different point of view. When pushed beyond her limits, my aunt can give a tongue lashing that will turn alligators into wallets. Even so, I expect my cousins know they were baptised, raised and gifted with bags full of her love to take with them wherever they go. In my entire life, I’ve spent maybe a total of six months in her company and even I feel as if I’ve been steeped in her love. A love that tempered my ego while I was still young and to this day gives me strength when times get tough. It is the unique resilience of this relationship that somehow defies the erosion of time and distance. The very definition of unconditional, boundless love. My aunt’s gift to the world. You have my everlasting gratitude for all eternity Mary Murphy.