Monday, June 27, 2011
Honoring My Aunt, Julia "Jean" Herrmann
My Auntie Jean was born in 1947 in Dublin, Ireland. She came to the United States in the 1960s and met my uncle John, a Baltimore, MD police officer. They fell in love, got married, and had two sons, Erik and Neill. Auntie Jean became a citizen of the US in 1972. After my uncle left the Baltimore Police Department, he became a federal agent and as a result, my aunt and her family got to live in several locations like Cape Cod, Massachusetts and the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
During these years, Auntie Jean was a devoted mother, loving wife, and a professional working full time. She worked for a small regional airline, Henson, and then went on to receive a college degree from Salisbury State University. Auntie Jean eventually went on to work for the office of the President for the University. Despite my aunt's busy career, she always made time for her family. Family came first, no matter what.
When I was a kid, I loved it when Auntie Jean and the boys came to visit my family. Because most of our family still lived in Ireland and the UK, my auntie's visits were especially wonderful during the holidays. I recall the excitement and joy I felt when I was told my auntie was coming to stay with us! She was always so happy, loving, kind, fun, and just full of energy! She was also an amazing cook. Her Maryland-inspired seafood dishes were out of this world!
In addition, Auntie Jean was a very talented quilter. One Christmas a few years ago, she sent me a beyond gorgeous kitty-themed holiday quilt throw. The detail in every square and stitch is simply stunning. My mother has a queen bed size quilt my Auntie made for her and again the love and attention to detail that went into it cannot be described.
Auntie Jean had a great sense of humor and an beautiful laugh. Without even trying, she was truly the life of the party. Her warm presence, articulate conversation, and gentle voice just made everyone want to be around her.
As I got older, Auntie Jean and Uncle John continued to be a part of family events like graduations, weddings, showers, and visits. I remember several nights Auntie Jean and my mom would stay up late and drink cocktails as they reminisced about their childhood. I can still hear their jubilant cackles of laughter melodically filling the humid summer air as fireflies flickered in the distance.
Whenever Auntie Jean and I talked on the phone, it felt like no time had passed. We just picked up where we left off. In August 2004, Auntie Jean came to Washington DC with my cousin, Ally, and we went to the famous Kennedy Center to see "The Producers." Alan Ruck (from "Ferris Buller's Day Off" and "Spin City") played the part of Mr. Bloom. Auntie Jean paid for our tickets and I then took Ally and Auntie Jean on a museum tour of DC and then out to dinner. After our girls' day out, Auntie Jean and Ally stayed overnight at my house and we stayed up and talked for hours.
In 2008, Auntie Jean fell ill and after a few doctor visits, it was determined that she had pancreatic cancer. Despite her diagnosis, Auntie Jean was a fighter. She refused to let her cancer win. Auntie Jean was treated at Johns Hopkins University and even participated in a cutting-edge study/medical trial. The results of this study proved to be successful and as a result, Auntie Jean seemed to be getting better. When I saw Auntie Jean in early 2010, she looked great. I was amazed and felt like there was hope.
However, in 2011, Auntie Jean began to experience a few health setbacks. Regardless of this, she was continued to fight. Whenever she and my mother talked on the phone, it was Auntie Jean who was being the strong one. My mother told me that on one of the last calls they shared, Auntie Jean told Mom that she was ready to go but she was worried that she was leaving behind "all these sad people." She went on to say, " I am ready. I need you to be brave. Can you be brave for me?"
After Auntie Jean left the hospital for the last time, she went to her brother's home to receive palliative care. On the 13th of June, at 9:15 pm, Auntie Jean left this earth. My family laid her to rest on June 18th.
Even though I am sad and quite angry cancer took my aunt's life, I am relieved that she is no longer in pain. I want her back. I wish I could make all of this go away like a bad dream I can wake from.
But, I know what I ask, what I plead for, is impossible. But what I can do is celebrate my aunt. I will treasure the gifts of strong femininity and wit she gave me. I will honor her love of family. I will always remember her beautiful skin and big, boundless smile. I will relish her lust for life and never forget who she was as my aunt and my friend.
You live always in my heart, Auntie Jean. May your journey to eternity be filled with love and light.