Aunt Noreen was strong and sassy and stubborn. She was Welsh from the top of her head to the tip of her toes. She was funny and straitforward, stout and impatient. She was loving and compassionate. She was a woman of my family who will be truly missed. I remember holding her hand, feeling its warmth and hoping that somehow my presence would ease her pain and that I could transfer good energy to her, to give her strength. I remember hearing her labored breathing; her fight for life. I remember praying for her, silently in my mind, that she would find peace soon. My mind wandered through the years, walking through a menagerie of figures who have touched my life…picking up memories of my childhood and thinking of her. Thinking of who she was to me. Thinking of who she was to everyone who was in her life. Thinking about how we look so much alike, with the ski-slope nose, blue eyes and mousey-brown hair. I was thinking of her hard life, of her struggle through so much sorry, and about how her laugh will never leave me. I was thinking that it was unfair for her to struggle so much in the end when she spent so much of the journey struggling. I was thinking about the John Wayne movie playing on the television in the background and how fitting it was that day. So many old school values – work hard, love and take care of your family, take care of others in need, fight for what’s right, living by your own means without an attitude of entitlement – they were as much a part of her as they were good old John Wayne. I remember thinking about her garden – how she always had something growing. I thought about her rose bushes and wondered what would happen to them. What will happen to all of the years of loving and tender care that she gave them…it made me wonder. I thought about the fruit trees and her canning skills. It made me not miss being in the same house as the canning – it was too hot. I remember the treasure hunts in her yard and in the old junk pile across the road – the search for shiny rocks and bits of sun-colored glass and peacock feathers. I thought about her smile. I remembered that I had never seen her cry. Not that she didn’t have tears. She had them, I am quite sure, but she never showed them. I remember the dogs and animals she had. I remember who she took everyone in who needed care. I remember her always being there. Now, there is a hole in my heart.