My Auntie Cher died this past week, and my heart is broken.
Our family has lost a mom, an aunt, a sister, a friend, and really, one of our core matriarchs. Growing up, she was my second Mom. Her boys, my brothers.
This may sound crazy, but I’ve never known how to spell her name. Sure, I know it’s Cheryl, but the short form was always a mystery to me. I remember being a kid, and my Mom asking me to write the message on a greeting cardâ€”usually in a rushed car ride on the way to some occasion or another. I never knew which one was right. Phonetically, it’s “Auntie Sherry,” but that wouldn’t do. Chery? Looks too much like cherry. Cheri? Cherie? I just didn’t know which one was right, and the thought of misspelling your second mom’s name isâ€¦ I dunno, scary? What if I hurt her feelings?
No, it always came to the same thing: I’ll just write Auntie Cher.
I wonder if she ever noticed.
Those who have experienced loss, like my Auntie Cher had, know that it’s not possible to sum up a full life in a piece of writing, or a series of old photos, or an obituary notice. The very idea is ridiculous, so I’m not going to try.
Let me say instead that I will miss my her wit, her strength, the way she scrunched up her face when she needed to set someone straight. She didn’t suffer fools for long. But she was also sensitive and kind. Quick to laugh and happy to help when you needed something. Her meals were famous. Her practical jokes the stuff of legend. She will be missed.
The funeral meant a return to my home town this week. a place where I got to grow up with two moms and two brothers, and pretty much lived a lucky small town childhood. We explored every square inch of Fort Saskatchewan growing up, but I thought I had left the place behind me when I left over a decade ago. So I was surprised by both how happy I found myself to be back, and by just how much my roots are still there.
It was great to have the family back again, as it always is. Even though we were together for a sad event, as we always are. For me, it was a wake up call that I need to stay better connected with my family. I like to think that’s a legacy my Auntie Cherie would appreciate.