No one loves you like I do.
No. No one ever will.
That’s how I feel. That’s how my entire family feels. This week. Right now.
Because our dear, amazing aunt is no longer here to hug us super tight (she squeezed extra hard) and tell us how much she loves us.
Let’s be honest. She loved everyone (although I can name a couple dozen hockey players she probably didn’t always feel love toward..and she hated snakes). But other than that, she loved anyone. First and foremost, she loved Him. And from that love, she loved her husband, kids, daughter’s and son’s in law, and her sweet grandchildren with her entire heart. And then came everyone else. No matter who you were, my aunt loved you. Wholly, deeply, unconditionally, unequivocally.
Every day, she lived life to the fullest. Embraced the good with the bad. From life’s small moments to its greatest blessings, she was always grateful, thankful, graceful.
It almost sounds too good to be true, but believe me, it’s all true. Every word we speak about Aunt Jill, it’s truer than true.
She was the person in our family, in our worlds, who could break through any of life’s struggles and encourage you in words and prayer. The way she loved was unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. Always genuine. Always gracious.
Aunt Jill was a blend of Annie Oakley and Betty Crocker.She did. it. all. One minute she was huntin’, fishin’ and the next she was cookin’ and bakin’ – and lovin’ everyday.
Her time on the lake with my uncle (and her kids and grandkids) was something she looked forward to every summer. She loved reeling in fish – Crappies, Walleye, and even Northern (and no one can pronounce those words like Jill could). And a good fish fry was guaranteed. She made killer Eggs McJill, amazing homemade jam from raspberries grown in her garden, and blueberry pie that even the Amish can’t touch, and breakfast scones that put Starbucks to shame.
Just when you think she couldn’t be any more amazing, she also devoted years to playing piano at church every Sunday morning while my uncle led worship. She taught Sunday School and Wednesday night Awana, and led Apples of Gold and numerous Bible Studies.
Then there was the time she spent knitting beautiful sweaters for her grandkids, or mittens for her daughters and nieces.
She’d feed deer in her front yard and shoot squirrels in her back yard (because they were “dirty rats!”). She played Sequence like a cheater – always table talking and dropping hints – “We gots trouble!” or my favorite, this odd onomatopoeia “deet dee dee” (which isn’t actually a natural sound…but it sounded natural coming from her) to signal you during the game. Needless to say, we never played poker.
Her dialect alone sent us into fits of laughter and her animated tales never disappointed.
She’d pop popcorn right after a big dinner and turn on a hockey game so she could yell “hustle, hustle” or “What in the world is he doing!?” She loved watching women’s volleyball with my uncle and knew player’s stats! And it drove her nuts when my uncle flipped through channels to see what else was on. But, oh how she loved laughing when my uncle watched “Home Alone” at Christmas (it’s a beaut).
Truly, Aunt Jill was one in a billion. And she always made you feel like one in a billion, too. No matter what, Jill always believed, always trusted. She shone with so much light that she always wanted to share with others. And she had Hope for tomorrow.
Tomorrow, the literal tomorrow, will be hard. To see family, and to realize that we’re missing her and always will be. But, about a week before she went into the hospital, at the end of September, Aunt Jill sent me a hand written note (in response to my hand written note that I can’t even talk about without bawling). Oh, how I will cherish her words. Her heart poured out to me. A clear reminder of her love for me and promise that she will always believe in His promises for me.
So, that’s how I’ll face this – carrying Jill’s love for me and Hope for tomorrow.
I love you, Aunt Jill.