My Aunt Valerie

Today brought the sad news of the passing of my Aunt Valerie Thomas Hartshorne, the last of my parrents’ generation to depart this earth. I find it difficult indeed to describe what she meant to me, to her family, and to her myriad friends. To me she exemplified love and compassion and consideration for others. She truly showed me and my brothers and my cousins how to live and how to give. If you took a spiritual x-ray of my Aunt Valerie, you would find not a mote of malice or pettiness or selfishness; it just was not there.

I remember her arriving at my family’s home in Dedham, Massachusettts, in November, 1963, openly weeping at the news of President Kennedy’s assassination. I remember her defying the laws of New Jersey, at great personal risk, to help her brother to depart this life in peace.

She started a highly successful retaurant in nearby Hopewell, NJ, and she served the most delicious meals I ever ate

More recently I read the journals of my beloved Uncle Nat, my godfather, and learned how much he dreaded the prospect of living without her. Thank God he didn’t have to. Even as a young child I could see that Nat and Val truly wanted the other to be happy. Seems simple, but it’s not. It certainly wasn’t true in my family. So they became a beacon of happiness for me, and the longer I live, the rarer this relationship becomes.

They had bumps in the road, naturally, but they persevered, and that commitment to mutual happiness saw them through. I think they may have been the happiest people I ever knew.

Even when someone’s time has come, and even when they’ve had a long and happy life, there is a great sadness in saying goodbye at last. Goodbye Aunt Val and thank you.