On Monday evening, I received a call from my sister stating our Aunt Donna, who was in the hospital, was being flown to Seattle. We made the decision to drive over the next morning to offer our support to our cousin. On the way to Seattle, he called us and informed us she had passed away.
My Aunt had fought a rare condition for the last couple years, making it hard for her to get around. But that never kept her from being herself.
You see, not many people are born with a heart full of love like Aunt Donna was. When I moved out of my apartment in Moses Lake and needed someone to help me move and store furniture, Aunt Donna was there.
When my brother needed a place to live or come back to, Aunt Donna was there.
When my sister was in recovery, Aunt Donna was there.
When my Mom and Dad got divorced and Mom needed to move out, Aunt Donna was there.
When her grandchildren, who she raised, raised hell or needed to come back home, Aunt Donna was there.
For a few years, life had gotten in the way of us seeing each other, but we made sure to text every now and then. In the summer of 2017, I was in Las Vegas and wanted to take her “out on the town”. She had done so much for all of us, and I wanted the evening to be about her.
I met her at Caesars Palace, and immediately knew the woman smiling, walking down the steps towards me. The first words out of her mouth were, “Do you like my hair? I told the ladies at work I was going out with my nephew and should probably clean up a bit, because, you know, when you get this old, you don’t give a shit.”
She always made me laugh. Actually, she made me cry with laughter.
We sat down at a bar catching up while we waited for our dinner reservation. She told me all about her kids, grandchildren, husband, and friends. Occasionally, after me asking a probing question, she would mention something about herself. But that was rare. She loved talking about her family.
We sat down for dinner at one of Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill and enjoyed the best food and company, occasionally catching our breath from laughing. Our table had a great spot to people watch, one of her favorite activities.
After dinner, we got to see Brooks and Dunn and Reba McEntire perform. An incredible performance, only better because I got to watch Aunt Donna sing, dance, and have fun. When the show ended, Ty joined us as we sat at a slot machine partaking in her favorite activity for three hours.
A few months later, I was back in Vegas for a conference. We did it all again, minus a concert, but more fun and catching up. She drove me and Chase, her grandson, on a “tour” around Vegas. And when I say “Tour”, I mean she was lost. But it made for a hilarious adventure around Vegas as she made up tourist spots, or called out the real ones.
Before I left, she told me she was trying to get on a transplant list for her lungs. She needed to take specific medication and get back home to Washington. Had I known how serious it was at the time, I would have hugged her and never let go.
While she had passed before we got to the hospital, the staff still allowed us to say our goodbyes. I sat next to her, holding her hand, and telling her how much love she had brought me in my life. No matter what happened, she was always there.
I’ll never forget you bringing me tater tots from Lamb Weston after you got off work. I’ll never forget you judging my and Jeff’s performance to “Buy Me a Rose”. I’ll never forget your contagious laugh, or your ability to make anyone’s day by just being with them. I’ll never forget you telling me, “Remember, Matt. There are people in this life whose problems can be solved with a hug.”
Most of all, I’ll never forget you.
To the most beautiful soul I’ve ever met, may you rest peacefully, and may the love you brought into this world continue to be spread in your name. You will always live in my heart.