Aunt Ellie

Dearest Rachel –

So I got myself home early the other afternoon to find a letter to ‘Jo Brunner’ in the mail. These days, I don’t generally bother with any mail addressed to either of your parents; rather than bothering with them, I just toss them in the recycling bin straightaway. I mean, if it’s taken this long, and whoever’s sending this email hasn’t figured out that your parents are gone, whatever they’re selling (or requesting donations for) isn’t all that important.

But this was different. Not only was it addressed to ‘Jo Brunner‘ (her maiden name, which you never set up to receive mail here), it was coming from someone in the Brunner family. Not the typical junk mail your parents would receive.

So I decided not to throw it out after all, and check it out.

Inside it was a bulletin, and a sympathy card, informing me of something you’ve probably known about for a month or so:

“Dear Jo -” (I’m not sure if she meant this for your mom, or just thought I was Jo, to be honest)

“I wanted to let you know that Ellie and Rachel are now together. Ellie passed away on Good Friday, April 2nd. I absolutely believe that Rachel knew Ellie would soon be joining her in heaven and helped her to transition as Ellie left so peacefully.

“I also want to convey our most sincere sympathies on your loss of Rachel – utterly heartbreaking. There are no words that can ease the ache and emptiness you must feel. Please know you’re in my prayers, may you find comfort and peace.

“Blessings and peace, Molly Brunner.”

I had gotten a call from Molly – the first time I’d ever heard from her, to be honest – late in March, or maybe early in April (it’s been a while, so I couldn’t say exactly) about the fact that Aunt Ellie was nearing the end. I want to say it was late-stage cancer, but I really can’t recall. At any rate, she clearly went fast after that.

You’ll remember how we made a point, these last five or so years, to stop by her place in Toledo either on our way to or from the island, and see how she was doing. You would call and make arrangements with her caregiver(s) as to when would be a good time to stop by, and we would drive over from our hotel in Maumee to visit with her. We’d usually stay for an hour at least, filling her in on how things were going with us, and she would do likewise. To be honest, while she seemed fairly energetic (at least, for someone well into her nineties), she seemed to be losing track as the years went by. Well, it did seem to be in character with your entire family tree that the women would stay physically healthy forever while the mind started to wind down.

But she was always vigorously cheerful and talkative, asking after my folks (who she met back in 2017 when we took them to see the island to explain why you wanted to be laid to rest there) and about Daniel’s high-school and college career. She would talk about how things were going at her church, and ask after ours as well, and was always pleased to hear how ours was thriving, even in the middle of the Covid situation.

I guess it’s just as well, in a way. I would have been sorry to not have stopped by to catch up with her, since we aren’t able to arrange schedules with the girls in order to go to the island this year. I do hope you and Ellie have been able to get together – although I’m sure she would have been as surprised to see you as Molly was when I told her what had happened.

You know, I often finish prayers these days by asking God to say hello to you when He can. I wonder if I’m being sacrilegious by doing so. But I don’t know how to reach you from this side – believe me, I know this isn’t being read by you. But I do hope you greet her for me, and maybe, if there’s a replica – or maybe a more perfect version – of her backyard garden up there, that you two might enjoy an iced tea together, and remember the days gone by.

Until next time, darling.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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