Was not feeling festive. And then Aunt Becky sent her famous Santa cookies OMG pic.twitter.com/uUIs90Oxsp
— Austin Kleon (@austinkleon) December 20, 2015
My aunt Becky died this week at the age of 72.
I have read a lot of obituaries, but hers is the first I have written.
While I was writing it, I thought a lot about constraint and form and perspective. How we get to know a person and how impossible it can be to communicate the sum of who they were, with all the multitudes they contained.
People see you through their own lenses. You’re as many different people as the number of people who know you, and for any life, there are many possible obituaries.
Thank goodness for structure. I felt very lucky, piecing together the information the family sent me, that there is a general form to obituaries, with a few variations.
I was also thinking about an alternate obituary — the obituary I would write if I didn’t have all this good information.
What do I remember about my aunt Becky?
Primarily, I remember her as a Reader. She loved to read and she dedicated her life to teaching her students how to read.
She had the no-nonsense-ness of a teacher. She carried the wisdom — and the authority! — of someone who’d done the reading.
Nobody does the reading anymore. Becky did.
I remember her giving excellent gifts, maybe a book she’d picked up during a trip to Colonial Williamsburg or Monticello. (Jefferson: “I cannot live without books.”) I definitely remember her gifting me books about the Beatles when I was obsessed with them.
And the Santa cookies. Aunt Becky baked the absolute greatest Santa cookies. Whatever address we had, she’d mail them to us every December. Scroll up and look at them again. Each wrapped individually in a little plastic cookie sleeve. Made by a woman who knew what she was doing.
What gifts she gave me! Books and cookies.
What more could this nephew want from his aunt?