She would be totally blind and in a complete vegetative state were she to survive. She was in poor health prior to the stroke, always suffering. She had horrible rheumatoid arthritis that gnarled her fingers and lung cancer and her knees replaced. She always hurt. My Dad tells me that she does not hurt now in her final moments due to large amounts of morphine. This pleases me if true. A great deal.
She never had kids of her own, therefore she always an awesome aunt. She spent quality time with me and my sister and my cousins. She taught me to blow a bubble and how to wink. If I said, "Aunt Shirley," she'd reply, "Whaty?" She was hilarious. She loved to gossip, and I never cared if she'd already told me the story twice, because she did it with such relish that it was a delight to listen again. She had genuine sass, and she loved hearing stories about what it was like to live in San Francisco. Frankly, she asked me more about the city than almost any other relative. You could tell she'd really have loved it.
She was fun. She was always pulling you aside for juicy secrets or playing little tricks. She'd let you get away with stuff, but nothing too bad. She was always hoisting more potato salad onto your plate. She made the best potato salad.
You'd have adored my Aunt Shirley. You couldn't not. She was genuine and had the best laugh and she'd welcome you to whatever she had straight away.
I love her so much. She was awesome. 55 years are too few by far. She'd shine in any room with her wit and charisma. She made me, in part, the woman I am today. I was closer to her than any other aunt or uncle. We bonded through shared memories. She was my ally when I was a little girl. She was always down for a good time.
I hope she is not suffering at this moment, but what I do know is that she won't for much longer, if she is. And knowing she won't hurt any more is a great comfort, and I can sit back and smile at her memory because, first and foremost, I will always remember first her boisterous, hearty laugh. In a way it defined her.
UPDATE: An hour after I posted this she passed away. I can't be there for the funeral, so my father is going to read this at the memorial service. I wish I could be there. It'll make mourning harder that I am so far away.