(This picture shows my mom with my brother Billy on her lap with my Aunt Lucille and her youngest son Don behind the counter.)

I feel incredibly fortunate to have had a woman like my Aunt Lucille in my life.  Her most endearing quality was her uncanny ability to make every person she met feel like a long lost friend.  She was the person you noticed in a room full of people.  Progressive in her views, eccentric in her dress, and boundless in her generosity, she was the life of the party and everyone’s favorite person to be around.  The thing that left the biggest impression on me, however, was how she made you feel when you were around her.  When Lucille engaged in conversation with you, you became the center of her world.  She would give you her undivided attention and ask questions until she was fully satisfied that she had gotten every juicy detail out of you.  This was how she made you feel special; she validated what you had to say and let you know you were heard.  I always felt like I was one of her favorite nieces, as I’m sure all of my cousins did!  Equally, I don’t believe she was capable of having a favorite.  She saw the special shine in each of us.

I learned through her example what kindness, acceptance and forgiveness looked like.  Not only did she show her love by simply listening, but she accepted me completely at every stage of my growth from childhood to adulthood.  She was one of the few adults in my life who didn’t try to tell me what to do and how to do it.  There was no judgement with Lucille, just acceptance and unconditional love.  I never knew her to hold a grudge and honestly, I can’t recall a time I saw her mad or upset, although I’m sure she experienced plenty of both.

Lucille was also a gifted storyteller and would regale you with stories of yesteryear, usually punctuated with a few belly laughs.  I don’t think there was a picture taken of her without a huge grin on her face and those big brown eyes smiling back at you, although they were normally hidden behind enormous sunglasses!  She chose not to allow the experiences of her life to harden and embitter her.  Instead, she chose to see the beauty and the gifts that surrounded her.  Spending time with family and friends fed her soul.  My brother and I loved going to her house when we were young because it meant seeing all my cousins and playing and just plain fun!  I continued to look forward to visiting with her as an adult because she made me feel so special and loved.  I can only hope that this is what people will say of me when I’m gone; that I found the special shine in each and every person I encountered.  To the woman who taught me to listen, I honor you with my gift of listening.  Namaste.