Tuesday, January 20, 2009

In Honor of Aunty Helen...

All the inauguration excitement has been slightly dimmed by our learning yesterday that Mike's Aunty Helen had died.

Aunty Helen had been in the hospital for five months, during which time she kept falling seriously ill and then miraculously rallying. Her husband, Uncle Clem, was on a complete roller coaster during all that time, being called to her bedside to bid goodbye on several occasions, only to see her make a recovery. (But never fully enough to return home.)

Yesterday, she finally passed away. Sadly, the last time we were able to see her was in 2004, when we visited England and attended the Jubilee celebration of Mike's Aunty Gena (her 50-year anniversary of being a nun, for all the rest of you non-Catholics out there). Not too long after that, she and Uncle Clem moved to Scotland, and we were not able to get up there at Christmas because we had such a short trip.

I will always remember Aunty Helen's wonderful Scottish accent, great sense of humor, and abiding faith. She would often preface her statements with "Please God," so as not to tempt fate. She consistently remembered all of the birthdays of nieces, nephews, and their children (and even me, a niece-in-law). And she was a devoted, faithful wife to Uncle Clem and a loving aunt to her nieces and nephews.

Mike also learned today that one of his mentors in Japan, at the university where he taught, died this year. So it's been a tough week of losses for him.

It's one of the sad parts about living so far away from Mike's relatives, as they are aging. Mike's dad (who died in 1992) had four sisters, one of whom died several years ago.

Here are Olga (Mike's mum), Aunty Helen, Aunty Gena, Aunty Kath, and a friend cracking up at some inside Gilmartin family joke, no doubt!

And I love this photo of our family with Aunty Gena and Aunty Helen:

(That's Kieran at age 1-1/2--but Nicholas always insists those baby photos of Kieran's are him!)

So here's to Aunty Helen and to the loved ones she left behind.

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