Cecelia was my stepmother for 13 years, my “aunt” for almost 30 years before that and my mom’s best friends for decades. To say our relationship was complicated might be an understatement.
What was not complicated was how much Cecelia gave back to other people. Whether you were family, friend or an acquaintance, she would be there for you when the need was great. When my Grandma Lily was ailing and Parkinson’s had robbed her of the ability to speak and later the ability to swallow, Cecelia would visit her in the hospital. At the time, she was not involved with my dad and my mom had passed away the year before, so Cecelia had no social connection to Lily except that she saw a lonely woman sitting in her hospital bed, a person in need of human contact when many people would have walked by in their rush to live life. Dad didn’t even know about these visits to his mother until the story came out years after they married. That was Cecelia’s gift, being able to see what others need and providing it without complaint or fuss.
Before she passed away, Cecelia shared a story of me as a baby. She and my mom were best friends in high school and Cecelia married my mom’s favorite cousin. They were so close that when Cecelia and Jack moved to Kansas City, my mom and dad saw them practically every day, playing cards, telling stories, going out for dinner and drinks.
One morning when my mom was visiting their house and telling Cecelia about how much food I could eat for such a little baby, Mom passed out and fell off the kitchen chair onto the floor, not waking up. Cecelia was a nurse and calm under pressure, immediately calling the ambulance and my father, who dropped my brothers off before rushing to the hospital to be with Mom. Hours later, my aunt showed up to collect the kids. As Cecelia tried to hand me off, my aunt stepped back, hands up. “I’ll take the boys but I won’t take the baby. I’m not good with babies.” Minutes later, they were out the door with their overnight bags and Cecelia and I spent two days together at her house before Mom got out of the hospital.
“You were a good baby and I loved you from the beginning,” she said years later, patting my cheek like the baby in her story.
Thank you Cecelia for all your gifts.