Big R lost a special person in his family last week, his Aunt Lynne. He wanted to write a small tribute to her memory:
My Aunt Lynne holds a special place in my heart and in my life. My father (her brother) was relatively absent in my life, but in contrast, Aunt Lynne made a huge effort to stay involved from the time I was little r's age through adulthood. My parents were divorced before I was in elementary school, leaving my mother to (selflessly) provide and care for me on her own. I never experienced any shortage of love, but Aunt Lynne always wanted to be be there for me in ways that her brother was not.
Aunt Lynne expanded the scope of my world far beyond New England. She and Uncle Sam lived in Florida, and she was a huge facilitator, conceptually and financially, for many of my most memorable childhood experiences. My New England upbringing and travels were spiced up by many trips to Florida. Disneyworld, Epcot, and Universal Studios are the "typical" tourist places she took me to, but the real adventures entailed cruising around on an airboat, catching cat fish, and swimming with the dogs in the St. John's river. I took several trips to Florida with my mother, but before I was even a teenager, I was taking unaccompanied flights to visit! One of those trips led to the ultimate adventure a somewhat nerdy kid could ask for: Space Camp.
Aunt Lynne and Uncle Sam worked with the shuttle program at Kennedy Space Center. Aunt Lynne strongly encouraged my interest in space, aviation, and science. She encouraged my interest so much that she paid for me to attend 2 weeks of Space Camp. It was a remarkable experience, and happened to be the week that Shuttle Atlantis docked with the Russian space station Mir. So, I was lucky enough to be at Space Camp to see a shuttle launch!
My youthful desire to be an astronaut eventually gave way to the still lofty goal of being an Air Force pilot, and, eventually, the realistic one of serving as an officer in the military. Without her influence and patience talking to me without end about NASA, this interest, like many other childhood interests may have been left behind.
As I grew older Aunt Lynne continued to give me incredible opportunities that have shaped who I am today. During high school and even college, I continued to visit Florida for my fill of red fishing (salt water is way more fun than lurking around the swamps!) and time relaxing with my family. But the real adventures were abroad. My first trip outside of the United States came in the mid-90s when I traveled to England to spend time with her and my extended family.
Two weeks in Oxford and London was an amazing and transformative experience. I was suddenly "worldly" as a 14 year old. She was a very good sport, taking me to the Royal Air Force Museum, the Imperial War Museum, and even crossing Abbey Road with me. The touristic aspect of the trip was very fun, but I suspect her greater purpose was a more important one: to include me in the family and ensure that I got to know my cousins and spend time with my grandmother.
I had two more trips abroad with her and my family, to Barcelona a few years later and then England and Scotland the next summer. Her generosity and desire to include me opened my eyes to other cultures and fueled my passion for travel, but, more importantly it exposed me to my family that before these trips I hardly knew.
Her love for her family and friends is almost certainly what we will miss about her the most. In her later years, split between North Carolina and Florida, she served as a caretaker and companion to my grandmother and Uncle Sam -- she was passionate about healthy eating (sometimes to the chagrin of Uncle Sam) and staying active in life - she remained a positive force and influence in my life, and others, always focusing on self-improvement and family.
I greatly enjoyed visiting with her as an adult, as well, which became easier the years I was assigned in Virginia. Her mountain retreat in Banner Elk, NC, was close enough for long weekends, and our last opportunities to spend time together entailed hiking Grandfather Mountain, attending country concerts (well, fly fishing near the concert), and enjoying good wine. I was proud for her to see the family that I built and can only hope that she recognized that she helped build the foundation of who I am today.
By the time I learned of her diagnosis it was too late to say any of this to her. While I was in Europe our communication was much less robust than it had been, but only weeks before all of this we had time to discuss that I would not be far away at all. Both of us expected that we would see each other in the mountains this summer or fall.
Now that she is gone, it means the staying connected with my family is not something that will just happen. Her role as a loving and involved Aunt was not limited to me - she was there for all of her nephews and niece - for graduations, weddings, and parties. The world is a lonelier place without her, the scope of her unconditioned love is not readily replaced by anyone. She made my world a better place, and since we crossed Abbey Road together the most fitting tribute I can provide is from the Beatles: "and in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make."
|Climbing the Spanish Pyrennes in 1999. Not her favorite drive!|
|A family shot in Barcelona in the Summer of 1999.|
|Aunt Lynne, Gran Barbara, and Aunt Vicki at our wedding in 2006.|
|Having a good time!|
|Aunt Lynne and Uncle Sam at our wedding in 2006.|