Great Aunt Julie

by Jessica Boersema

Based on Portrait 1 & book title: Daddy Long Legs

I’m sure you all have great aunts and uncles. You know, the kind that you only see once or twice a year at those large family reunions. They may seem a bit stuffy at first but as the conversations start to pick up you often begin to realize how funny they, in fact, can be. Then a conversation hatches, and before you even know it, they’re telling you all the crazy stories about their childhood or about their grandparents or their great uncles and aunts. I remember one story as well as if I heard it only yesterday.

It was New Year’s Eve, if I recall correctly, and Uncle Steward was just beginning to tell a story when I walked into the room. The story went something like this, when Uncle Steward was about my age, he had an aunt; she was his great aunt in fact. He liked to call her Great Aunt Julie.

He told us she passed away many years ago when she was eighty-three, but he continued, telling us about her wonderful life and all her many accomplishments. Great Aunt Julie was born in the Netherlands but immigrated to Canada with her family when she was just ten. Aunt Julie being the oldest was obligated to take care of her seven other siblings. That really didn’t bother her though because she loved helping others.

Though Aunt Julie stayed home a lot to help with household chores, she continued with her schooling, and she excelled in it. As she was growing older, she started driving and soon realized how much she enjoyed that as well. Summer was her favorite season and it just so happened that the summer she turned eighteen she met the love of her life, Uncle Case. They were happily married three years later and were parents to three beautiful children, two girls and a boy. As her children began to grow up Aunt Julie began to explore new hobbies as she had some free time on her hands with the kids at school.

She always had a passion for music and decided to teach herself how to play the piano. She was also actively involved in a choir as well and not only did she direct the entire choir she often participated in some of the singing. Her choir group traveled from place to place spreading their wonderful music to many people.

Aunt Julie was a truly extraordinary woman. She was a well-loved high school teacher for sixteen years and was also a member in the Canadian Military Institute. She even was Minister of Education in London for several years, and became president of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Association of Canada shortly after.

After all this Aunt Julie finally decided to officially retire at the age of fifty-five though she was still involved as a volunteer for many organizations. During the next stretch of her life, she enjoyed traveling all around the world with Uncle Case. They traveled all over the world. Uncle Steward bragged as he described receiving postcards from wherever they ended up. After a while, Uncle Case and Aunt Julie decided to put a pause on traveling and spend quality time with their family.

Over the next couple of years, they enjoyed spending time with their twenty-one grandchildren and their twelve great grandchildren. Aunt Julie made it her job to spend equal time with each of her grandchildren. She gave them advice and she made sure that they knew that if they ever needed someone to talk to, she would be there for them. She was a very down to earth person, she was caring, kind and she was a real role model to all her grandchildren.

During the year that Aunt Julie turned eighty, unfortunately, Uncle Case passed away and not shortly after Aunt Julie was diagnosed with cancer. Her journey may have been a long one but during it all she stayed optimistic. With great sadness, not long after her husband, Aunt Julie passed away. She was sorely missed, but everyone knew she was in a better place, where she could be without pain.

Aunt Julie’s funeral may have been a somber event, but her family could take joy in the life she lived, rather than dwelling on how much she would be missed. Although they may have been sad, they wanted to remember how much of an important role she play in their lives. She was many things; whether she was a grandmother, a mother, an aunt, or a sister, she was special to each person in her large family. Everyone she knew held her in a special place in their heart. She really was a diamond, a true treasure in this world.

As Uncle Steward ended his story there was great sadness in his eyes, but I felt something else, I felt moved. The way Uncle Steward had talked about Aunt Julie, the immense respect that he showed, and the way you could clearly see that he loved her dearly was something that I had never experienced before. It was then that I realized that when I grew up, when I was old, and eventually when I passed away, I wanted people to talk about me like that. I wished for them to remember me in a special way. I wanted to mean something to all those around me. After his story I felt as if I knew Aunt Julie as well as she was my own aunt. I shared in the great sorrow that was felt on the day that she left this earth and went to join our heavenly father.

As we were driving home that night, I told my parents about Uncle Steward’s story, and about how I felt. My parents told me something valuable that day. My mom told me to be myself. She told me to do what I want to do with my life; to achieve all the things that I want for myself. I was not to set my standards to the level of others, but to do the things that I want to do because if the people around me truly love me, they would support me with the reasonable decisions I make.

In the same way, when you make well thought out decisions that are right, people around you will support you, and love you in the right way. They will cherish your life, respecting you for the things you do, big or small. You will mean something special to them.

Aunt Julie’s story really spoke to me, and I decided to write about her because I hope it can touch someone else as well. This may be the end of my story, but it certainly doesn’t have to be the end for you. In fact, I hope this will help you with the life decisions that you may need to make also.