My Aunt Dorothy was a special lady. Naturally loving and caring, wherever she went, she left behind a trail of joy and happiness. Such a bubbly personality, with a great sense of humor and could be delightfully goofy at time, much like my mom. When we would visit, she’d come searching for a hug, and I’d either run off in the opposite direction, or veer off at the last moment. But she was quick and would catch and get that hug, with each of us laughing. She would tell us that she was the Bionic Woman and couldn’t escape, which was a running joke up until the last time I saw her. Perhaps she used some of those powers to catch me, but I loved her, so would let her get the hug in the end.
When someone loved and admired passes, it’s natural to have long periods of reflection. Allowing memories to come back to light, remembering the sounds of their voice and laughter. Specific memories flood into consciousness, sparking feelings of long past. Over the past few days, one of my favorite memories has been on my mind.
I was in the tenth grade at Pope John Paul II high school. It’s a Catholic school in Boca Raton, FL, and obviously has many priests and sisters working there as teachers, administrators, and councilors. Coming from a Catholic schooling from K through 8th grade, we faced some stern sisters that were stern for lack of a better word. Think “The Penguin” from the Blues Brothers, and you capture our experience in a nutshell. But in my two years of high school at Pope John Paul II, it was quite different. The culture was friendly and bubbly.
“Tom Guettler, please come to the office,” the PA system announced. It was mid-morning, and for a brief moment I was thinking I was hearing things. Then my heart skipped a beat and began to race. The only time people get called into the principal’s office is when things are going down. Nothing good comes from these visits. Nothing. You don’t get called in for a social visit. I stumbled out of our class and began my trek to where the office is located.
All the while, my mind raced. I retraced my actions of the past day or two. I wasn’t a perfect student, but did my best to stay out of obvious trouble. But I played back scenarios in my mind. Then started to get some excuses ready. I swallowed as I stood before the door for the office. I swallowed and slowly opened the door, trying to keep my hand from shaking too much. My mom and dad were going to give it to me later on. What did I do?
I walked in and looked around. Over thirty years later, I can still recall the feeling. Aunt Dorothy was there visiting the sisters and school administrators and was smiling as I walked in. She was part of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, and was there on a regular visit. It was a moment of pure relief and joy. Never before had I been so happy to see Aunt Dorothy, and probably for the first time, I didn’t make her earn a hug. She could have played the “run from the hug” game with the roles reversed. I mentioned how relieved I was and told everyone I thought I was in some deep trouble. I think it went over well with everyone.
I was wrong. You can be called to the principal’s office for a social visit. I learned something new that day.
It may not be a memory of Aunt Dorothy performing acts of heroism (she did have bionic powers, after all, but now that I think about it, we never saw them in action…), nor is my favorite memory her of sacrificing much for a life of service to God and the church, which I admire greatly. My favorite memory is a quick surprise visit when I was in school. It was a simple, yet loving memory, one that I’ll continue to cherish.
There are those that just so special, they are a beacon for so many. I know her legacy, and will always try to live to her example to the best I can. I can only guess how much of an impact she had for others. I know she left others always feeling better, and know she interacted with so many. I know she’ll be missed, and the world is a better place for her having been with us for so many years. There’s a void now, but I know Heaven is better now that she’s arrived. I can only smile knowing she’s being goofy with my mom, seeing my Uncle Paul, Uncle Edward, and my Aunt Betty, seeing my grandparents, and all the ancestors.
We should all follow her example, and to honor her legacy. And I hope to see her in the end, where I will make her earn that hug, but I think I’ll let her catch me and give her a good hug. I want to thank her for making our lives richer and meaningful. What a wonderful legacy to leave behind.