Hello my lovely readers! I know, I know, I claimed at the beginning of the summer that I’d be posting more, as I have more time with being out of school. Alas, I’ve found new hobbies to suck up my time, so I’m sorry that I haven’t upheld my deal of the bargain. Nevertheless, I haven’t forgotten about you, and I wanted to share this amazing story with you about my Aunt Ginny that is proof of how wonderful our God is!
I just knew of her as Aunt Ginny, although she was my Great Aunt Ginny. Ginny treated my sister, Faith, and I like she treated her niece, my mom. Although she lived 700 miles away in San Jose, she always asked her sister, my grandmother, about Faith and me, keeping updated with my writing aspirations and Faith’s latest art creations. For our birthdays, Aunt Ginny would send Faith and me ceramic figurines. When I was born, it was a baby, clutching onto a blanket, when I was five, it was a young girl, holding a lollypop, when I was twelve it was a young tween with a bird perched on her fingertips, and when I was eighteen, I received my final figurine, a poised, smiling young woman who looked ready for anything.
Two summers ago, Mom had extra airline miles and at the time, she and Faith were diehard fans of One Direction (I, on the other hand, didn’t want to admit that I was into a teenybopper group like One Direction, so I pretended not to like them). When Faith and Mom heard that the band was playing in San Jose, they couldn’t book the flight fast enough. Ginny helped us to feel welcome at her home that weekend, making us her specialty blueberry coffeecake (I devoured it even though blueberries normally don’t agree with my taste buds).
Our first full day in San Jose was the day of the concert. Me, being the stubborn One Direction hater (secretly lover), decided not to attend the concert, but to instead help Ginny volunteer at Rock Med during the concert. Rock Med provides EMT and medical support to those in need during big events like concerts. Ginny explained that most of the night would consist of me handing out earplugs to the thousands of people that underestimated the volume of screaming girls for attractive, singing boys. Ginny had been a nurse all her life and volunteering for Rock Med was something she loved to do.
As we drove to Levi Stadium, she told me about her adventures volunteering for various events at the stadium. Her most wild experience had been volunteering for the Super Bowl, but her best memories were from volunteering for The Grateful Dead which was a month before One Direction. During The Grateful Dead concert, Ginny spent more time than usual watching her favorite band than volunteering.
As One Direction played that night, I watched Ginny spread her positive attitude to people who dropped by Rock Med. Ginny’s bubbly, energetic personality never failed to inspire me. Her zest for life was contagious. One girl fainted from the excitement, and Ginny was right there with her, holding her hand as tears streamed down her face, assuring the young girl that she’d be okay.
It was about a month after I began my senior year of high school when Grandma called and solemnly explained that Ginny had been diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer. Lung cancer? But I had just seen her six weeks ago, running around the stadium, diligently helping anyone who came into Rock Med. How could someone so healthy and full of life have cancer?
I tried to forget about it. To me, Ginny still was the energetic, fun-loving aunt who I’d stayed with only weeks before. I erased that phone call from memory like the rest of my family did. It was Ginny’s wish that no one talked about her cancer. I’m not even sure if her close friends knew, because she wanted to continue living a normal life, and she did.
She made plans to fly to Arizona eight months later for my high school graduation, which meant the absolute world to me. On the big day, I spotted Aunt Ginny in the audience; I quickly ran out to her before the ceremony started. Her face lit up at the sight of me in my cap and gown, and she gave me a quick hug before I retreated backstage. I reunited with my family after the ceremony, and Ginny placed two handmade leis over my head. She made me feel so special that day, it hadn’t even dawned on me that she was sick.
That summer, my family reunited with Ginny in Newport Beach for a day. We went to the beach, where her husband, Alan, taught us the valuable lesson of never turning our backs on the ocean, and we finished the day with a memorable dinner at Crystal Cove. We ate outside, the smell of saltwater floating in the light air. I can still hear Ginny’s distinct high-pitched giggle as my dad swung Faith’s jean jacket over his shoulders, making him look like The Fonz from Happy Days. We made the long, uphill trek back to the car, oblivious to Ginny’s sickness, and we said our goodbyes.
I began my freshman year of college. And just like that, the trees were bare and November was upon us. I was home for Thanksgiving, when Grandma called. Ginny’s cancer had spread to her back and brain. My heart ached. I felt so guilty for not praying more, for not offering up more rosaries for her sickness. As she wished, I had forgotten about the cancer and along with it, I had forgotten to do the most important thing I could do, pray.
The day before Thanksgiving, Faith, Mom, and I made a trip to Bookmans, a used bookstore. Faith was so aggravated that she had to read for school over winter break, but she thought that she might as well get a head-start reading it. Mom asked an employee where to find the book, and they led us in the right direction. The employee was shocked to find that there was only one copy left. He explained that the book was so popular that there was always more than one on the shelf. It was almost destiny that Faith got the book that day, like that one copy was made for her.
Grandma called again with another update the day after Christmas. Ginny had felt so sick on Christmas day that she only visited with her family long enough to open presents before heading back to her room to rest. Her sickness became real after hearing that. This was affecting Ginny in ways that I couldn’t imagined. She was so strong, I thought nothing could knock her down, but the cancer had managed to do the imaginable.
On January, 13th, Faith, Mom, and I ended the week by watching La La Land at Harkins. We returned home, and I sang Another Day of Sun as I changed and washed my face before bed. I was grabbing a drink of water when the phone rang.
“Hello, Chris,” Dad said. Then a pause. “I’ll tell her. I’m so sorry to hear that. We’ll be praying.” Then a click as he ended the call.
I knew even without asking that it was about Ginny. Taking a deep breath, I padded to the living room where Dad stood with sad eyes.
“Ginny is in the hospital. It won’t be much longer.”
It came so fast. I felt stupid for singing such an upbeat song moments before. Mom instantly went into overdrive, preparing for her flight to San Jose the next morning. She asked if I wanted to go, but I declined. I didn’t want to see Aunt Ginny in the hospital like that. As far as I knew, she was still traveling to exotic places and volunteering with Rock Med on her free time.
Mom sent updates via text that weekend. At night, she’d call, her voice cracked and raw, explaining how bad it really was. Sunday, January 15th, during dinner, we received a text that Ginny had passed away with her family surrounding her. I mourned with Faith and Dad that night, but I didn’t want to think too much about it. Instead, I focused on my next semester of college, which started the following day.
I attended daily mass Monday. We stood for the prayers of the faithful when the priest said, “For the dead, especially those who will die today, that they will find peace with God.” A shiver ran up my spine, and tears sprang to my eyes. Aunt Ginny was now in that category of those who had died, and I hadn’t even bothered to mourn her loss respectfully. I had busied myself, acting as if everything was okay. I felt so ashamed.
The next day, as I trudged to Anthropology in the biting cold, Mom called. “Kirsten, do you remember the book Faith had to read for school?” Her voice sounded raw, as it had the weekend before, but now a twinge of joy peeked through the sorrow.
I instantly remembered the book she was referring to. It was the book we picked up before Thanksgiving.
“I walked into Faith’s room this morning to wake her up for school when I spotted a concert ticket on top of the book. I picked it up and saw that it was a ticket for The Grateful Dead, and it’s dated June 27, 2015. And get this, the concert was at Levi Stadium!” Mom shrieked into the phone.
I stopped in my tracks, tears springing to my eyes. That was the same concert Aunt Ginny attended the month before One Direction!
Mom explained that she startled Faith awake, prompting her where she got the ticket.
“It was in the book when I got it, and I just used it as a bookmark. The person who had it before me must have left it in there. I always felt some connection to it, but I never realized the significance of it until now!”
Faith drove to school an hour later, playing The Grateful Dead, eager to hear the band that Ginny had loved so dearly. As she drove through the neighborhood, a single fawn stopped in the street, illuminated by the sunrise. The deer looked at Faith for a moment before it gracefully leaped into the forest. Faith knew it was Aunt Ginny.
After hanging up with Mom, I couldn’t help but smile for the rest of the day. I knew that God and Aunt Ginny were telling me that she was grateful that she was no longer suffering. She was gratefully dead. Unlike the night before at mass, I felt at peace. For so long, I had felt ashamed that I hadn’t prayed more for Ginny while she was still alive, but here she was, telling me that it was okay. She was at peace now in Heaven, and even though she was gone from this earth, she wouldn’t be gone from our hearts.
Three months later, my family attended Ginny’s celebration of life in San Diego. As we concluded the celebration, the host, one of Ginny’s close friends, announced that we were going to sing Ripple. She handed out the song sheets; my family exchanged contagious smiles as we noticed that Ripple was by none other than The Grateful Dead. The host explained that this was one of Ginny’s wishes before she died, to sing The Grateful Dead at her celebration of life, because after all, we were celebrating the time we had with her, and what better way to celebrate than to sing? My family couldn’t stop smiling, happy tears running down our cheeks.
I hope you enjoyed this story about how wonderful our God is. It just goes to show that through pain and suffering comes joy.
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