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When I took Mr. Perfect to meet my aunt Jacquie, after only a few months of dating, it wasn’t just because he lived in Chicago where she was and since I was in town for a visit I should pop in. It made it more convenient, but he would have had to meet her eventually. Many of the most important, the most pivotal moments of my life wouldn’t have been possible without her. She drove me a lot of places, literally and figuratively, whether at my insistence or hers, usually way too fast, but I always got there unscathed.

After Mr. P. introduced himself (during which Jacquie and her husband made fun of him). she looked him dead in the eye and asked him if we were having sex (not in those words). That’s Aunt Jacquie for you. She doesn’t tiptoe around anything. Mr. Perfect was shocked, but he rolled with it…and that’s a big part of why he’s still here. He impressed her, and that’s not as easy as you would think.

When I was in eighth grade I heard about Horizons Upward Bound and knew i had to go. I couldn’t let an opportunity to position myself so well for the future pass by. I didn’t have a ride to the bus stop, though, until aunt Jacquie volunteered. We circled a while and finally figured out it was a school bus–as it was leaving! Aunt Jacquie made her boyfriend chase the bus with her hanging out of the window and waving her arms, screaming “Hey, you forgot a kid!” She managed to get the bus to stop, I got to take my admittance tests and interview, and I got in to the summer program, and eventually Cranbrook Kingswood Upper School.

My dream was to go to the University of Chicago. I got to go there for one day, lol. After I applied, I went to interview. I can’t remember if it was necessary or not, but I wanted to see the school anyway, and I figured it would help my chances. By this time my aunt had married and moved to Chicago. She agreed to take me to see the school. It was a rainy, dreary, frigid November day when we went to see the school. The students weren’t too friendly, everyone looked angry, the campus had the look of some dreary corner of Cambridge, and I got soaked through, but we went, wandering in the bookstore, buying a U of Chicago sweater, watching people play soccer, listening to tour guide, after admissions guide, after admissions counselor, until we were blue in the face.

I decided to go to Purdue University. I went on the Greyhound to visit with my mother in the winter. I had to go back in the summer for Day on Campus, to register for classes and such. My father was supposed to take me, but miscommunication and general bad disposition and feelings got in the way of that. Aunt Jacquie told me to take the Greyhound to Chicago and she would take me to day on campus. I was there for two weeks. After riding down a Chicago one-way the wrong way somewhere between Rainforest Cafe and Oprah’s studio at 4a.m., and getting stuck in rain storm after traffic jam after rainstorm, after having to take a detour from the main road and finding campus while trying to get back to the right road, we got to day on campus.  After day on campus, I was in Grown Woman bootcamp. My aunt Jacquie taught me how to shape my eyebrows, self pedicure, pick clothing, and talk trash back to rude Chicagoans, lol.

My second year of college, my mother, uncle, and I stopped at my aunt Jacquie’s on the way to campus. After entertaining us all night, she got up early and went with us to campus. She stayed with us all day, cleaning my apartment/dorm, going to the store to buy food, kitchenware, and supplies, meeting my roommate. We stopped over on the way back after that year of school, both ways the year after. She always went with us and helped us.

When I lost my financial aid and had to leave Purdue and go back to Michigan, attempting to finish up there, my aunt Jacquie gave me a great pep talk. I didn’t need Purdue; nothing was going to stop me. We didn’t get you this far for you to give up. No matter what you have to do, finish your degree. Don’t give up on it. You’re going to be somebody.

Then I took Mr. Perfect to meet her. He suits you, fits you, she said. As long as you respect each other and drive your own relationship. She mediated a very big discussion of ours, a very foundational piece of our relationship.

You see, my aunt Jacquie was a very funny, fun loving person, but what made her special is her heart. She was loving. She wants other people’s happiness. She was always in your corner. Whether she was calling to call you out on your nonsense or to congratulate you, she always told you she loved you. She was upset when someone upset and hurt you. She hurt when you hurt.

I started this a few days ago and since then I’ve had to change all of the last paragraph from present tense to past tense. That’s the hardest bit of editing I’ve had to do in quite a while. I hadn’t thought about what it’s like to lose people close to you, because, until the last year or so, I hadn’t lost many close to me. It’s not getting any easier. But what makes it easier than it would otherwise be is knowing that both my stepdad and Aunt Jacquie knew how much I loved and appreciated them, knew how grateful I was to have known them and had them in my life, while they were still here.

Time is filled with swift transition, indeed. Don’t leave it until later to tell anyone how much you love them and what they mean to you; you never know when they will be gone.

Aunt Jacquie knew what she did for me and what she meant to me, but I wrote this so that someone else would  know too. Maybe it won’t mean anything to you that she did all this for me. You have your own stories and memories to reminisce over. But sometimes hearing how great someone is from other people helps, lets you know you aren’t grieving alone, lets you be even more proud of the person Jacquie was. And maybe it helps you, when you want to give up, to know what she would have said and done had she been here to help you when the time came.

I love you, Jacquie. I appreciate you. I miss you.