Sunday, April 20, 2008

Rest in Peace Barbara Dee Still, 1948-2008

Death has closed its icy grip around my heart once again. Yesterday, April 20th, my aunt, not yet 60 years old, lost her long struggle with cancer. Wife, mother, grandmother, aunt.

I mentioned previously that when my grandfather met and married my grandmother, he had three children and she had two. "Aunt Barb" was the youngest of the three of my grandfather's kids. Her middle name is like mine, and from the same source. Or, rather, mine is like hers, as she came first.

A scant six weeks after I was born, Aunt Barb gave birth to Melissa Jane, the first of her two daughters (she had no sons). "Lissa" and I two were the first of nine grandchildren for Dee and Dorothy Winters. Three years later, Holly Christine came onto the scene as grandchild number six.

I grew up in a town just a handful of miles from where Aunt Barb, Uncle Tom, and cousins Lissa and Holly lived (I once rode my bicycle out there, but the treacherous farm country roads made it something I didn't want to do a second time). Being so close, we spent a lot of time with them, and this included my other aunt and uncle and their three sons, all of which lived in the same town I did. We were a close-knit family back then, and even today haven't entirely lost all the ties, though we're spread out across the country.

One of my favorite memories from growing up is of a trip to the coast for a four or five day vacation of camping, playing at the beach, fishing, and just general mayhem. Aunt Barb and Uncle Tom packed their two kids, two of their neighbor kids, one of our other cousins, my sister and I into a couple of vehicles, bolstered each others' resolve, and headed for a house they had rented near the beach and one of the many Oregon coastal lakes. What were they thinking? We all had a blast. By the end of the trip, all the kids were calling Aunt Barb, "Mom," as it was easier than the mix of "mom," "Aunt Barb," "Mrs. Still," or whatever else we were all calling her.

The title of "Mom" fit her pretty well, too. She lived her life very focused on her family, often putting her own needs to the side in favor of what someone else needed. She loved to cook, and even operated a small event catering business "on the side" in addition to a career of more than thirty (maybe forty, I've forgotten) years at the post office.

I think the thing I loved most about Aunt Barb was that she was quick to laugh. Not to say that she didn't know when to be serious, but life just seemed to amuse her. I think her favorite phrase was, "oh, what the hell?" Her laugh was something hard to describe, but I heard it often enough that I'll always remember it.

Barbara Dee Still, born Barbara Dee Winters to Dee and Shirley in 1948, is survived by her husband Tom, daughters Melissa and Holly, and four beautiful grandchildren. There is no question in my mind that she rests in peace, and is probably watching over us all, amused at the whole spectacle. She will be missed by everyone who knew her.