Thursday, July 2, 2015

Shirley, Never Forgotten!

Shirley & Gene - 1941
Anne, Shirley & Gene in back
Ever since I was a young child, I have been fortunate to experience the warmth of not only a close family but a close extended family.  My youthful memories are tied up with so many wonderful people from my great grandparents, grandparents, great aunts and uncles, cousins, and my aunts.  There are a few of these people who always stand out – and my Aunt Shirley was one of those people.

Shirley was my Dad’s next sibling, younger than him, by a year.  When they were growing up – he, Shirley and their sister Anne were always a trio.  (They also had two younger sisters – but as younger siblings they are not always in the mix with the older siblings – as a youngest sibling, I have experienced that)  They all got married in 1958 and 1959 and began their lives together with their new families.  All of their children were born from 1958-1967 with myself being the youngest.  Between my Dad, Shirley and Anne – there were 13 of us born in that eight year span.  Even though we didn’t see each other as often as we liked – we were close.  During the last 15 years, Dad and his sisters became even closer.  All three couples became close friends as well as siblings and in-laws.  We lost my Mom almost 10 years ago, and Anne lost her Bill in 2012, and yesterday we lost our Shirley.  Mom and Bill had both had illnesses that made their deaths not that shocking – but Shirley, we all thought she would out live all of her siblings.  Her death is a huge shock and has left a huge hole in our family.

Left to Right:  Gene, Karl, Shirley, Marian, Tom w/ Fran behind
Anne with Bill behind - Taken 2010 - Marian's 90th Birthday Party
The best way to describe Shirley was someone with a big heart who would do anything to help anyone.  If you needed something, she was there.  Whether it was a hug, sounding board, or advice.  She was a devoted daughter, adoring wife, loving mother and grandmother and beloved sister.  When I woke up this morning, one of the first things that came to mind – is that for the first time in my life – my aunt Shirley was no longer with us.  I always try to think of people as they are and “not on a pedestal,” and Shirley had her faults – and she would be the first one to tell you that, but she had some of the most wonderful qualities.

Mother's Day 2011 - Fran, Anne, Gene, Mary Kay,
 Shirley with Marian in front
Shirley was happiest when she was doing for others…I don’t know if there was a selfish bone in her body.  She took care of everyone around her and for her husband and children – she was their stable rock and the heart of her family.  I am sorry that those great grandchildren will never know their grandmother personally – they will have to know her through their parents.  Her grandchildren knew their grandmother as a strong loving force in their lives and her children knew her as the hub of their family.  Her love surrounded them all.  Shirley’s husband Karl is a broken man today.  For him – he has lost a loving life partner.  He told me that she would always be with him while he pressed his heart. 

Shirley & Karl - Wedding (24 Jan 1959)
So today, I cry selfishly for losing a much loved aunt who had become my friend and confidante especially during the last decade since I lost my mother.  I weep for my father and his two remaining sisters who have lost a childhood playmate and a sister who was much more than just a sister but a friend.  No more will we be able to shake our heads in disbelief and wonder and the generosity and love that Shirley showed every day of her life.  So this weekend, as we gather for our family reunion, we all will celebrate the niece, cousin, aunt and sister as well as the mother, grandmother and beloved wife.  There is a hole that can never be filled or replaced.  We will not ever see her like again and how we’ll miss her sweet smile, loving touch and generous love.
Shirley's Family - 2010 - Marian's 90th Birthday Party

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