Remembering Aunt Sarah

sain-aunt-sarahI’ve always thought it strange that folks write letters to their deceased loved ones, or post birthday and anniversary wishes to them on social websites. Because if we believe in The Word, the Bible says that the dead know nothing. And if that’s the case, then attempting to communicate with those who’ve crossed to the other side is silliness. Or is it?

Sigmund Freud believed, and some contemporary psychiatrists agree that writing is therapeutic – even writing to the dead. When we can share things that have happened in our life, tell our deceased loved ones things that we wish we could say to them, or just tell them how much we miss them it helps us feel better emotionally. Be it a lover, close relative or friend, writing helps us build a spiritual connection with that lost someone.

My Aunt Sarah (whom the family called Sain), was a kind and loving person. She died on Thanksgiving Day five years ago. And like many people whose life she touched, I am still consumed with thoughts of her, especially at this time of year. So, I am going to engage in some silliness myself, by writing her this letter.

Dear Sain,
I often think about the times we spent together, cooking meals in your kitchen, both in Manhattan and in the home you and Uncle James built down south.

I recall the many times during the years of my youth when you would come to visit us. Like mom, our whole family anxiously awaited your arrival. After eating dinner, we would all play Scrabble or Bid Whist or talk about Good Times or other favorite TV programs. And at night, I’d lie in bed listening from my room as you and mother continued animatedly talking and laughing about your childhood and mischievous and funny things that you did back then.

I think of the times I spent periodically with you in New York. Oh, how I enjoyed looking over the city skyline from the high rise building where you lived. I still recall the first night you pointed out the twin towers with the moonlight beaming on them from the night sky. What a beautiful view.

I remember gifts you gave me like the engraved bracelet for my sweet sixteen birthday, and the tiny bottle of Channel Number 5 you handed me just because I said it smelled good as I was watching you dab some behind your ears and on your wrists. “Here, you can have it,” you said. You were indeed a selfless person.

It was from you that I learned how to apply mascara. And when I became a teen, I began buying myself inexpensive earrings and other cute pieces of costume jewelry, trying to look like you. Except for lipstick mother rarely wore make-up or jewelry. Mother was very pretty, but you always looked like a movie star.

After I was grown, I enjoyed (and still miss) exchanging letters with you and spending time engaging in long telephone conversations. And, oh, the jokes you’d tell me. Sometimes just thinking about some of them makes me smile. And another thing, I miss hearing you talk about the young students that you taught over the years before you retired and some of their antics. How many times did you make Teacher of the Year? Nevertheless, I think that instead of a career in education, you would have made a killing doing stand-up comedy.

Whenever I visited your home in NC, I always admired your doll collection. You must have had close to if not more than a hundred dolls displayed in that huge breakfront cabinet and not just those that you purchased. Many you told me were given to you by relatives and friends. I was happy that I also contributed to your collection. And when the first Michelle Obama dolls began selling, I told myself “I’ve got to get one of those for my auntie.” But, unfortunately, I kept putting it off. I guess Victor Kiam was right when he said, “Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin.”

Speaking of collections, many of the African masks in my art collection were gifts from you.


If only we could talk and laugh again about how my grandsons when they were little, enjoyed running around your huge living room and digging their tiny hands into the candy bowl on your coffee table. And they were totally fascinated by your big screen TV.  The big boxes were not as commonly seen in homes over 20 years ago, as they are today. Well, those grands including the twin in the photo above are all grown up now.

By the way, Sain, remember how proud we were when President Obama got elected? Guess what, POTUS served two terms.
And you know that book that I told you I was planning to write? It was published 18 months ago.

In spite of the pain and all that you went through during your battle with cancer, you never stopped being considerate you. I remember our brief conversation days before you died like it was yesterday. The weakness in your voice was evident over the phone and I think that Uncle James dialed the number for you because you wanted to thank me for the flowers I sent. Little did I know that would be our final conversation. How I wish that I had been able to visit with you one more time before.…

The thing about cancer is that it gives survivors and their family false hope. It goes into remission, sometimes giving its host a few more years of life, and then, as it did in your case, it returns with a vengeance.

Did I dream it, or do I recall Uncle James, telling me one day that in your last hour, during the last few minutes while he sat by your bedside that you, with abated breath, began saying The Lord’s Prayer? And when you reached the line, “Thy will be done,” you closed your eyes and slipped away from us.

There is so much more that I’d like to share with you. And I am trying hard not to cry as I close this letter by saying, Sain, I miss you, but I am thankful that your pain is over and I believe that you are at peace.

I love you, always, now, and forever.
Your niece,

4 responses to “Remembering Aunt Sarah”

  1. Vanessa Staton

    Well cuz, you’ve done it again. I smiled and cried. It’s funny how all our memories of Sain are almost the same. That shows that she treated us all the same. While I know what the Bible says bout the dead but that doesn’t stop me from believing that Sain and all the Staton’s watch over us. I thank God for the time He gave us with her and the effect she had on all of us. Loved you piece cuz.

  2. Nana

    Thank you much for this post. It was truly food for the soul.

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