Have you ever had a moment when it seemed that everything just stopped? When the earth no longer moved in its orbit around the sun, and your problems that seemed momentous were suddenly minute and insignificant? This is exactly how I felt when I learned my great-aunt had died.
Good-hearted, compassionate and loving are only a few of the words to describe her. A beautiful and generous wife, and a strong and affectionate mother, she lived each day to the fullest. She had it all.
Multiple myeloma is a rare form of bone marrow cancer that accounts for only one percent of all cancer cases. Sufferers experience fatigue, anemia, kidney problems, and compressed nerves in the spine. Hardly anyone knew my aunt was ill, and those who did never felt sorry for her because she simply would not let them. I was aware of her illness, but never thought much about it because of her overwhelming strength and belief that she would survive. With my aunt's potent faith, supportive family and determination, she did survive the disease for four difficult years.
At her funeral, loved ones gathered to salute her and celebrate this amazing woman. Speeches honored her, the last by her husband. He spoke of my aunt's fight with her illness, and her unwillingness to give up. While he expressed his gratitude to those who had come to mourn that day, he also mentioned that, knowing his wife, she would not want us to remember her with sadness and tears.
What she truly wanted, he said, was recognition for the time she lived while battling her disease. She wished to know that her incessant efforts to live a "normal" life were worth something to all of us.
My uncle then asked everyone to stand, place their hands together as in prayer, and applaud. Like a wave, a ripple effect was created in the church as row by row, each person gave my aunt a standing ovation. It was then that I realized that what really mattered to her was the satisfaction of knowing her family and friends were proud of her. How could something so simple mean so much to her, even after death?
My great-aunt's principle desire taught me a valuable lesson that day: It is never too late to love, never too late to offer props, and never too late to show appreciation for a job well done, and a life well lived.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.