Tonight, I am quite certain there is a good deal of laughter in heaven now that my great-aunt, Shirley Richardson Humphrey, has arrived. If there seems to be a shift in celestial activity, it is probably because all the guardian angels have abandoned their posts to catch a story Aunt Shirley is telling, or just to be in her presence.
Aunt Shirley, along with her nieces (also, my cousins), Cathy Richardson and Sherry Richardson, was one of my babysitters. As a young boy, I enjoyed my time with her, and my cousins, Mike, Greg and Lisa. Aunt Shirley was one of the most darling people I’ve ever known. Her smile always made one feel as though they were the only person in the entire world, and her warm hugs were always uplifting.
One day, when Aunt Shirley was babysitting me, I stood on a kitchen chair at the sink while she peeled and chopped onions. The tears streamed down her face as she continued chopping. Lisa came into the kitchen, and immediately panicked when she saw her mother crying.
“Mom! What’s wrong?” Lisa exclaimed.
Aunt Shirley raised her arm and wiped away the flowing tears on her shirt sleeve. “It’s just the durned onions.”
For years, this memory has made me chuckle each time I chop up an onion.
Aunt Shirley suffered from Alzheimer’s. It was infuriating to watch this hideous disease imprison such a bright, vibrant soul. It seemed cruel. Still, when sitting with her at Uncle Dave’s funeral, Aunt Shirley’s responses were so adorable. Here is a bit of our conversation:
Darin: Hey, Aunt Shirley.
Shirley: Well, how are you?
Darin: Just fine. And how are you doing?
Shirley: Good. Good. Who are you?
Darin: I am Danny’s son.
Shirley: Oh! Ok. Now who’s Danny?
Darin: Your nephew. Rosemary’s son.
Shirley: That’s right. Who’s Rosemary?
Darin: Your sister.
Shirley: This is just great. I have a nephew and now a sister.
[Uncle Bob, Shirley’s brother sits, next to her]
Bob: Hey Sis.
Shirley: [Turns to me] Here we go again.
Bob: I’m your brother, Bob.
Shirley: Of course you are.
Bob: You remember me?
Shirley: Well, of course, I do. You just told me you were my brother.
It could not have been better scripted, nor performed, by Gracie Allen. The delivery was priceless.
Despite the fact my great-aunt was no longer remembering me, I was grateful her adorable personality had not yet been stolen from her.
Tonight, many people feel a sense of loss. But, man, oh man, are the angels howling with laughter. I am sure even they are feeling quite blessed tonight.
May adorable angels sing thee to thy rest, my dear aunt…