My beautiful aunt should have turned 58 tomorrow [seen here with my uncle at my cousin's wedding]. Sadly, she died just before her 50th birthday, due to a medical condition and (I believe) the incompetent medical care available in Moscow, Idaho. But Linda wouldn't want bitterness to be a part of the memory, and really it's not.
It's funny. Writing fictional characters, we put such pains into adding flaws, making our characters interesting and giving them strands with which real people identify. It makes you forget that in real life, most people have such glaring flaws that we almost don't see them. People are selfish (*raises hand*), greedy, self-serving, pedantic, superior, neurotic. Everybody has their tics and for the most part we only grumble about them when somebody is really out of line (which only happens when we care about people deeply, or there has been a head on interaction in which they can't be ignored.)
We forget, until we find one, the exquisite experience of meeting a person who is truly and deeply beautiful, clear to her soul. There is no second guessing of motives, no worry about gossip, no feeling that you don't measure up, just the pure joy of knowing someone who lives on a higher plain than we do.
Linda wasn't perfect. I remember clearly her telling me (when I was pregnant the first time) that she weighed as much as she had at the end of her second pregnancy—she was never fat, but she always struggled. And she wasn't a meticulous housekeeper. In fact I am guilty of holding her up as an example to my mother to prove the case that it was the meticulous people with issues, and the more casual housekeepers who had their priorities right.
But in all the ways that mattered, she was a fabulous woman. I remember meeting her. I was four and spent a lot of time at my grandma's. My uncles were several years younger than my mom, and so still living at home. They brought home friends, some of them female, and mostly they flitted through like exotic butterflies—maybe saying hello, but not particularly interested in the curious pre-schooler. Linda was different. She sat down and asked me questions about what I liked to do, watch, read. And she remembered and asked again at other times. She was the unique person who asked questions not to be a conversationalist, but because she was interested.
She was a wonderful mother, never yelling, always sharing, passing on a combination of emotional serenity and love of life to her kids. I just wish she'd gotten to be a grandmother. She was born for that roll.
My uncle has remarried a wonderful woman, and there would be nobody happier about that than Linda, but periodically I find it helpful to think about what makes such a person—what qualities we should all strive for. I miss you, Linda!