Early yesterday morning my aunt Daphne passed away at her home in La Pine, Oregon. She was my dad’s baby sister and she had just turned 60 in February. It wasn’t unexpected or sudden—she’d been battling a rare liver and lung cancer for a while and unfortunately, as happens all too often, the cancer ultimately won. I’ve been anticipating and dreading this moment for months and now that it’s here, I find myself even more heartbroken than I ever imagined.
I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with Daphne in my adult years, for all of the usual reasons. Families grow up, get busy and spend less time together—not because people want to distance themselves from their loved ones, but because it’s simply what happens. That’s life, for better and for worse. Family gatherings may have been few and far between in recent years, but I’ve still managed to accumulate enough incredible memories to last a lifetime. I can still recall in wonderful, vivid detail all of the summers and holidays I spent with her, my grandmother and my cousins when I was a kid. Those times stand out in my memory as some of the happiest days of my life. They were the carefree days of my childhood… lazy, fun-filled vacation days spent with much loved, rarely seen family members.
My cousin Courtney and I wiled away countless summers together, running around outside, playing Barbies for hours on end, watching movies, playing with the dogs and (treat of all treats) cruising the mall with Daphne and our grandmother. Daphne was a great cook and if I close my eyes, I can practically smell her delicious patty melts and enchiladas right now. After dinner we would all loll around on the couch and Daphne and Courtney and I would scratch each others’ backs, play with each other’s hair and snuggle with the pups while we watched movies like The Parent Trap and The Swiss Family Robinson. Then Courtney and I would retreat to her room and stay up for another two hours whispering, joking and just generally cracking ourselves up. Courtney and I also loved to watch Daphne and Gramm get all dolled up before an outing. They both had a very regimented beauty regime and we were fascinated by the rollers, curling irons, hairspray, makeup and perfume—and of course we did our best to mimic their every move. Daphne had a beautiful voice and Courtney inherited it from her, so they would sit at the piano and sing while I croaked along, off-key but enthusiastic. I really loved listening to them sing. Daphne was so modest and shy, but when you could finally coax a song out of her, it was beyond lovely. You just wanted to hear her sing one song after another.
When we got older, our family get-togethers were just as fun, if not more fun, given the copious amounts of wine involved. The many evenings spent sitting around the kitchen, or out on the porch, drinking wine, catching up and laughing uproariously at each other, are some of my fondest memories. My dad, my uncle and Daphne would rib each other good-naturedly as they entertained us with stories of their youth. I enjoyed several such evenings last August when my family went to visit Daphne and the rest of the Oregon clan at our annual family reunion. It was a bittersweet trip for me. I suspected that it might be the last time I got to see Daphne and when it came time to say goodbye, I did so with a very heavy heart. I am grateful for that time that I got though, and I’m glad that in my last memory of her she is the lovely, cheerful aunt I’d always known.
Daphne was beautiful inside and out and she didn’t have a bad bone in her body. She spent her whole life loving and caring for everything and everyone around her, and she always put the needs of others in front of her own, to a fault, really. I know everyone in my family wishes she had been a little more selfish from time to time, simply because she was so deserving of some pampering. She approached life with a good sense of humor and an easygoing attitude, and she was a person that everyone loved to be around because she always made you laugh and she always made you feel incredibly loved. It breaks my heart into a million pieces to know that she will never see me or my cousins get married and have kids, she’ll never spend another Christmas with us, and we’ll never hear her deep laughter or melodic voice ever again.
Goodbye Daphne… you were truly a treasure and there isn’t a day that will go by that we don’t think of you and wish you were here. I don’t think you ever realized just how beautiful and wonderful you were, and that is perhaps the most heartbreaking thing of all. I hope that wherever you are now, you know how deeply you were loved and appreciated by everyone who knew you. You were a bright and brilliant light in our lives and the world is a little less radiant without you in it. I’ll love you always and you’ll be in my heart forever.