What I Should Have Said

I have attended two funerals in the last three weeks. Two days after the first funeral for my husband’s uncle, his aunt passed. We drove from Virginia to Tennessee for both of them. And we took time to be present with family and hear their stories and remember those lost while we were in town.

At the second funeral, the pastor offered others in the room to stand up and say something about Aunt Rita - and I was trying to work up my courage to, but being married into the family and not born, I hesitated a little too long and the opportunity passed. 

I regret my hesitation; the truth is, I married into this wonderful family 22 years ago and have known them half my life now - and am as much family as those born just about. I should have put my Valor and White Angelica on, and I should have said this:

Aunt Rita was one who always welcomed you into the house, fed you, talked to you, and loved you. She moved to Virginia years ago to be with her daughter and son-in-law and help with the grands until they left home to begin lives of their own. 

Rita was headstrong. She knew what she liked and was going to do it, whatever you said. She smoked, and said once that she liked smoking and wasn’t going to quit. And then she decided it was time to quit. You couldn’t have made her before she was ready though. 

Our family was staying at Uncle Terry’s house (for you readers, Terry is Rita’s older brother), and all around Terry’s house are lighthouse themed decorations. Little figures, a magnet covering the whole of the door of the dishwasher, the shower curtain, soap dispenser, lamps... she loved them and wanted to let Terry enjoy them too. 

All around either house - Terry’s or her daughter’s - Rita made sure things were kept super clean and tidy. There were little cups in the bathrooms, always tissues handy, bottles of cleaner under the sinks, and a swifter mop ever handy. I learned some tips from her for keeping things straight. 

Whether for the love, the cleaning, the fun decor, and all the things besides: everyone could use an Aunt Rita in their lives. 

... you at the memorial know these things about Rita. You know her and have your own stories about her, far more than I could ever share. So what I really want to say is 

write those stories down. 

They’ll get fuzzy over time. Write them down, share them with one another, record them for the next generations. It’s easy to think you’ll do it later, but life will happen, and you likely won’t, until one day you’ll try to tell the story and it won’t be as crisp and fresh as it is now. 

Everyone needs an Aunt Rita - and your stories mean she lives on a while longer. 


That’s what I should have said. And it is what I am saying to you here through this blog post. Go talk to your older family members and older people in the community, hear their stories, and write them down. 

Listening to them will bring history alive; it will give you incredible perspectives on life and our time in it. Recognize the Rita’s in your life and honor them by just being present and listening. 

We all need - and have - an Aunt Rita in our lives. Tell us your favorite story of memory of someone still living, or passed on. Share your Rita Moment.

One more Rita story shared after the service: the guests were given hand fans with Rita’s picture on it at the memorial. This was done because she always had to have a fan around to cool off. It was never cool enough, so there are fans all over the house! And fans were given away in her honor.