Dear Aunt Ceil,
I was born on a Thursday morning in 1980; it was your 29th birthday. They named me after you (middle name).
When I was little I thought you were cranky. You had little patience for my sister and I; our noise, our toys, our mess.
When I was a kid I found out the mean lunch lady’s name was Cecilia and I was teased for sharing a name with her. I was mortified.
When I was in middle school I still spelled ‘Cecilia’ wrong 9 times out of 10. It was burdensome.
When I was a teenager, something changed.
We were visiting the family in Oregon when you, Aunt Ceil, asked if my sister and I could ride with you. Us teenagers…in your vehicle…alone…for an hour and a half road trip to Mount Hood. I thought you must be insane.
The trip started off in dead silence. When we got on the highway you said, “Okay. Now that you girls are grown up, we can finally start talking about stuff!”
You said, “Look, I’m never really sure what to do with little kids. I never had any and they are just not my thing. I have always loved you guys, but now we can actually talk. So…”
And what followed was an hour and a half conversation about love, family, and history. She shared stories and then genuinely wanted to know what we thought. What teenage doesn’t crave that kind of attention? We didn’t want to get out of the car when we arrived.
After that, I loved my Ceil time. We talked about things when there were things to talk about or we didn’t talk at all and just played cards or watched Star Trek. Ceil, if you had something to say, you said it. If you had a question, you asked it. If you didn’t agree with someone, you’d let them know.
You were a pragmatic person. You liked history. You disliked bullshit. You liked Star Trek. You disliked mess. You liked elephants. You disliked waste.
I liked you. I dislike cancer.
Many years ago after your mother died, you purchased a niche for your urn and planned your own funeral. It wasn’t dramatic, it was practical. And you enjoyed making your own choices.
“You can visit me here,” you said as we stood in the columbarium. “It’s nice, isn’t it?”
We have a few things in common, you and I. We don’t like drama. We enjoy cards. And we don’t talk during tv shows. As you got older you embraced silliness and – despite your doubts – became really good with little kids.
I miss you. I smile when I see your picture. I think of you every time I see Star Trek on TV (did you know it is practically always on somewhere?). And, yes, I will visit you. It is a lovely place, because you are there.