I spent the past few days at home with my family, saying goodbye to my sweet aunt Sue. I sang along with unplugged Manchester songs on Alt Nation and cried as I drove in my car. I held my dad's hand again and exchanged silent nods of understanding with my brother. I got to hug and talk with an uncle I thought I might not ever see again, and I listened to bits of our history from extended family members I had never had the chance to meet.
One thing I forget sometimes about being from a small town is that when something tragic happens, everyone rallies around to give you a big hug. Through cards, flowers, cookies and casseroles. (Up north, we call them hot-dishes.) When I go home, people still call me "Jenny" and people in passing vehicles wave when I drive into town. My best friend since elementary called me to talk before I could call her, and managed to cheer up my whole family after the funeral. Even just watching Vera Bronleewe – who taught piano lessons to almost every single kid in Buffalo Center for generations – play Amazing Grace and How Great Thou Art was comforting. Because everything felt like home. And it felt like family.
Sue was a very sweet aunt and an extremely independent, strong woman. She overcame insurmountable odds from her childhood, yet was always happy and smiling. She was real and funny and believed in second chances. She made amazing sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top during the holidays. She volunteered at homeless shelters and helped anyone who needed her. She was a great listener and always had a open ear and an open heart. (We love you and will miss you, Aunt Sue.)