My Auntie, Lonna Karen Kirkpatrick, was only a few years older than me but she and my uncle, her brother George, doted on me like the little sister they never had. Their eyes would light up whenever they saw me. With Lonna, as with George, I always felt very special, even when we became seniors. We would have long conversations about music, art, and ideas – and Lonna usually insisted on paying for lunch.
Lonna gave the best gifts and I still have a couple of them. My favourite of all is a vinyl LP of Michael Jackson’s first solo album, Music and Me. It may be worth something now (I’ve never checked) but I wouldn’t part with it. Back when I first got it I had no idea who Michael Jackson was but she obviously saw his musical genius far sooner than the rest of the world noticed it.
Auntie Lonna had a brilliant mind. She was interested in so many things, not least of which was her Indigenous heritage. Her Master’s thesis was on a familial health issue – psoriasis.
She wasn’t just smart, though. Lonna loved family reunions and would join them with excitement. She dove in whole-heartedly like she did everything else in her life. If there was a wacky event like a crazy costume contest, she was right there. She brought great food and visited with everyone, talking and laughing about family adventures, quirks, and history (she edited the Kirkpatrick family newsletter for a time).
One of the last times I saw her, Lonna was in her and Alan’s home shortly before she was placed in long-term care. She suffered from dementia by then and did not know who I was at first. But when I introduced myself to her caretaker as Lonna’s niece Dawn, her eyes lit up in recognition. “Dawn!” she said, and her eyes filled with happy tears. Mine did, too, at that point. We spent the rest of the visit chatting aimlessly about disconnected topics that made sense only to her – but the love was still there and I believe she experienced joy in hanging out with me again.
I know I sure did.
After a long, long struggle with dementia (far longer than anyone should have to endure), my Auntie Lonna’s spirit finally abandoned her tired little body and moved on to the next adventure. For her family it was a relief and a heartbreak at the same time. But now she is with family members who have moved on and I have no doubt they are having a great reunion of their own.
Thanks for all the great talks and gifts, Auntie. I love you!