I had a bit of a sniffle a couple of weeks ago, and because I was blowing my nose a hundred times a day, I started to remember someone who was part of my very early years. Aunt Bessy. My memory of her is a very warm and gregarious character, in a rather rotund package. Poor Aunt Bessy, was sitting in a dining chair with arms once, and when she stood up, the chair rose with her, as the arms were digging into her generous girth. She squealed with laughter, which made it alright for us little ones to giggle.
She was very much loved by all the children who knew her. She had about twenty grandchildren of her own whom we often played with. They were so fond of Aunt Bessy. We were a little jealous, and wished she was our grandmother also.
There were no limits on the love and kindness Aunt Bessy had to share with others. She adored my mum was very supportive of her. Aunt Bessy was generous to us, she always had something to give us, cakes, sweets, toys. However, there was a strict side to her aswell. She had a real problem with me…me and my nose. As a little one, I had not grasped how to blow my nose properly!
She scolded me on many occasions about wiping my nose on my sleeve, or not wiping it at all, but letting my nose run instead!
She introduced me to a handkerchief and taught me to practice blowing my nose. And practice I did! Every time I saw Aunt Bessy, I would run over to her and ask her to watch me while I blew my nose. She would laugh and tell me I was not doing it properly. She would talk me over the proper technique again! I kept on and on trying.
Lots of our little friends (probably related to Aunt Bessy) told us they had been to her home to visit. They told us how tasty the dishes that she had cooked were. They excitedly described her special fishies.
I wanted to go to visit Aunt Bessy’s home and taste her cooking and see her fishies. I asked Mum to ask Aunt Bessy for an invitation. When Mum let her know how keen I was to visit, Aunt Bessy sternly told me that I would not be allowed to visit until I had learnt to blow my nose properly!
With renewed determination I practiced in real earnest, until one day, I sensed that there was something different. I seemed to have all of a sudden acquired the proper technique because there were visible results (deleted the graphic description for your dear sakes).
I was so excited when I could finally perform a successful “nose-blow” in front of Aunt Bessy. She was delighted with me and I received one of her wonderful warm hugs. My next question was:
“Does this mean I can come and visit you now?”
A lunch-time visit was arranged. I thought Aunt Bessy was so considerate even to ask Mum what we would like to eat. Mum never asked us! I can’t remember whether it was fish fingers or chicken nuggets in breadcrumbs, but I do remember it came with chips and baked beans. I was so thrilled. She showed us her fishies. I was in awe of them. They seemed magnificent. Coy carp I believe, they were the biggest fish I had ever seen and seemed so beautiful.
She gave me a little gift. It was a box of three handkerchiefs with my initials embroidered into the corner of each. The kind of gift I wish I had kept. But that was thirty years ago.
One icy winter, Aunt Bessy was in the front seat of the car her husband was driving. Uncle Justin was also a lovely man. I will tell you about him one day. Mum and Dad told us afterwards that it all happened very quickly. The juggernaut of a lorry on the opposite carriageway had lost control and was skidding as they came around the bend of the road. My parents told us that Uncle Justin and Aunt Bessy would have hardly suffered, they would have died instantly.
I am sure I had known of others to die, but it was the first time my parents had dressed us all up smartly to take us to the funeral. As we were all ready to leave our family home, I gave out emotionally. I ran upstairs and hid in the huge mahogany wardrobe in our bedroom. Dad came to find me.
I was distraught. I could not control my violent sobs and streaming tears. The reality of what had happened had hit me and I could not leave the house. My parents did not want to force me to attend the funeral. I stayed with one of our neighbours, who had daughters a similar age to myself, while the rest of my family attended the funeral for Uncle Justin and Aunt Bessy.
I was only around five or six. I know I had started school because Aunt Bessy had bought sweeties for my first school trip. That was the first year I read the Bible for myself. I needed to. I had questions from that moment on. I needed to find the answers to my questions. I have read it over and over many times since, but that was the first year I read it rapaciously. All my other story books seemed pretty boring after reading the epic accounts and dramatic dialogue of an array of characters.
The first time I read that the Creator can restore life to someone who has died…I felt huge relief. Even now, the nine accounts of those who had died being restored to life, are amongst my favourite passages. From that moment, I started to think about what I will say when Uncle Justin and Aunt Bessy wake up again.
I still find, every time I have a sniffle or a cold, and find myself blowing my nose a hundred times a day, my mind floods with memories of dear Aunt Bessy.