My aunt, my confidant, my mentor, my friend k died in the hospital ICU after 12 days of unconsciousness. Per her wishes, she was cremated and there will be no service. If anyone would like to send a gift, she asked that a donation be made in her name to Broward Health, a nonprofit that offers inpatient and outpatient services to the uninsured and the underinsured. The details are below. She is survived by her parents, her brother and sister and her niece and nephew (my sister and I). k called me b around these parts, but you can call me Brian.
I don't know why k didn't want a service but I wasn't surprised when I heard we weren't having one. I'd guess that she felt it would be unnecessarily sentimental, or perhaps too much of a burden on those around her. Our immediate family is made up of independent, strong-willed folk so the desire to carry on without a public fuss speaks to us. Whatever her reasons, the family has decided that this small note posted on her blog will serve as our public goodbye to k.
I'll forgo the standard obituary of her life. The most important points are given in the first person on this blog, and they are told by k better than I ever could. Besides, the majority of it would be facts that could soon be forgotten. The defining qualities of k were not things like the school she graduated from or how she earned her money. Instead, she was defined by the spirit she kept while working through two decades physical decline.
When her body's troubles were in a managed check, she shared life with her partner, Walter. She maintained a beautiful yard with flowers and plants, she cooked, she read, she thought. She cared for her cats. She watched TV shows about serial killers. She repaved her driveway with bricks. She sang to the lizards in her yard as she fed them grubs she pulled off her plants. She dug up fossilized sharks' teeth and saved plants from hurricanes. These things were the Fun Stuff that kept her spirit fed.
During the times when her physical needs took priority, she still found excitement in learning and talking about every new disease or injury she encountered, taking plenty of pictures, and sharing them with whomever was interested. And the truth was that for her, that was all Fun Stuff too. There were descriptions and stories, play-by-plays of hospital calls, grades for the nurses and post-game analyses of which doctor did right and which doctor was merely a witch doctor. Those of us that have followed this blog were her witnesses and her support group and she was thankful for it.
My sister's and my eternal love and gratitude for k flourished in our teenage years. k never wanted children, but there was plenty of Fun Stuff to being an aunt. She was a village for us. She talked to us as if we were already the adults we'd eventually become. She taught us about people and adulthood and society. She taught us what it meant to suffer and to change and the difference between surviving and thriving. She taught us that when you're an adult you can eat a whole jar of maraschino cherries if you want to. She taught us that it was okay to think that work is hard as long as you did it anyway. (She also tried to teach me about flowers and cooking, but that didn't stick so much.)
Over the years, modern medicine gave k's body a lot of help but I think her spirit was the magic elixir that kept her body going beyond reasonable expectations. And no matter how much energy the diseases took, the Fun Stuff was always there to fill her spirit back up. The Fun Stuff was still there after her cats passed. The Fun Stuff was still there after my sister and I grew up and got busy with our adult lives. The Fun Stuff was still there after her mobility declined to the immediate 60 feet around her bed and the yard outside became overgrown with weeds.
The medicine says that the end came when she finally caught a disease it couldn't cure, but that doesn't tell the whole story. I think the Fun Stuff finally stopped being fun when she lost Walter. Its fitting that this post sits above her post about Walter's passing. Her words are there, promising that her spirit will continue on, but I didn't believe them when she posted them and I don't believe them now. They are the rote promises of someone with years of practice. No, medicine did not come up short in the end because medicine was always fighting a losing battle. It was her spirit that could no longer make up the difference.
A half an hour before I got the call from my father with the news, I was talking with my cousin. She's blessed with many of the gifts k valued- intelligence, will, curiosity, a strong sense of right and wrong. We were talking about some social issue or another and she thanked me for giving her some new ideas to think about. I told her I couldn't take all the credit because my mind had been opened by k 18 years earlier. It was probably over a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle and a jar of Maraschino cherries. That is the k that will not be lost. Her name may fade into the family tree but her and her spirit will be passed on.
I miss you, we miss you.
P.S. Gonna make a bunch of Sin Rolls this Thanksgiving, k.
Contributions should go to:
Broward Health Foundation
12 SE Davie Blvd
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316
"In memory of Karen Goodheart"
I know that this post is two months overdue, and I apologize for that. At first we had problems logging in to her blog. And once we got the password, this proved harder to write than I thought it would be.