I feel so lucky to be so close to my family…I grew up celebrating every holiday with all of my aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents in attendance. With my mom’s family, we not only celebrated every holiday, but had monthly birthday celebrations as well. The biggest was always February birthdays, with five people having birthdays in that month and one of them being my Aunt Cerelle.
This past February, my aunt celebrated her last birthday turning 59 years old. After a nine month battle with breast cancer, she passed away this morning. I was home last week and was able to spend time with her every day I was there. When I left, I truly thought I would be seeing her when I went home for Christmas. Even though my heart is broken with the idea of her not being there, I am so thankful for my time with her and the conversations we had.
Some of my first memories of Cerelle are of her staying with my family on Christmas Eve and waking up with us on Christmas morning. I remember picking out slippers for her and watching her open them. For her nieces and nephews, Cerelle always did something unique for our Christmas presents. Instead of toys or clothes, Cerelle would give us a giftcard to Barnes and Noble bookstore. We would get to spend some quality time with her and have a fun-filled evening of picking out a book, going to dinner at Flakey Jake’s and spending the night at her house. She was indeed fun and cool Aunt Cerelle. 🙂
As I got older, she was still fun and cool Aunt Cerelle, but in many other ways. I remember her getting excited about Clinique Bonus Time like I did in high school. When I went to college, I learned to love her appreciation of pictures of family and friends…I started scrapbooking almost every event in my life to capture memories. She was always the one with a camera at family events (for as long as I can remember) and I finally had developed an appreciation for her efforts. And finally, the thing I cherished sharing with her the most was her love of traveling the world. I went to Paris when I was 19 years old on Spring Break in college and I came back only wanting to keep exploring. For Christmas that year, Cerelle, my Uncle John, Aunt Denise and Uncle Kenny gave me a framed picture of the Eiffel Tower from LIFE magazine. It was what greeted me when I walked into my bedroom for six years before I moved to Hawaii. I still remember opening it and just how happy it made me.
Cerelle had been all over the world and would bring her pictures from her various travels to family events to share with us. One of her more recent trips was an African Safari…I loved hearing her describe her pictures with excitement and explain all of the fun things they did. When I visited Hawaii at the end of 2011 (my first real vacation since my senior year Spring Break), she was one of the first people I called. My first day here, I stopped by Starbucks and walked two miles to Ala Moana Beach. I sat on the grass at the edge of the sand and took a picture of the palm tree, with the ocean in the background, in front of me. I texted it to her and then called her because I knew she would appreciate my feeling of happiness at being somewhere so amazing. I will never forget that phone conversation.
When I decided to move to Hawaii, she was thrilled for my new adventure. Cerelle continually told me “You can always come home…live somewhere fun while you can.” when I would talk to her about where I wanted to live and work. She encouraged me to live in different places and experience new things. Not only was she excited for me to live someplace incredibly unique and amazing, but she had a special place in her heart for Hawaii. She married my uncle John on Maui and then traveled to Kauai for their honeymoon. Last week, even while in the hospital, all she wanted to hear about was how Hawaii was, what fun things we had planned, how my job was going, what adventurous things we had done recently and Josh. I got to tell her we would be visiting Maui for the first time at the end of May and talked to her about what they did while they were there. I still owe her a helicopter tour of Kauai.
I can’t even begin to imagine coming home and not seeing her or getting to share my experiences with her or hear her talk about her recent travels. But I am so thankful for the incredible relationship I had with her for the past 28 years. I love you Cerelle.