SHE IS STUNNINGLY BEAUTIFUL, the young woman in the long-sleeved simple white dress with eight decorative buttons and a corsage accenting the bodice. Her thick black hair is pulled back in a pony tail held in place by a white ribbon and a sprig of flowers. Next to her stands a tall, lean man dressed in suit and tie, a single carnation pinned to his lapel.
On May 14, 1968, this couple—my Aunt Sue and Uncle John—married. Today would have been their 52nd wedding anniversary. Except Sue died last week of pancreatic cancer. Although we all understood that Sue’s cancer, diagnosed some six months ago, was terminal, her death is still difficult to accept. Her husband of nearly 52 years is heartbroken.
That heartbreak has been compounded by COVID-19. For the week Sue was hospitalized prior to her May 8 death, John could not visit her. Until the end—the day prior and the day of. And now he and his grown children and their families are left to grieve alone. The usual ways in which we comfort and support one another have vanished. You know that if you’ve lost a loved one during this global pandemic.
I wish I could be there for my uncle and cousins, to hold them close and tell them how deeply sorry I am for the loss of their wife and mother, my aunt. Instead phone calls, texts, emails, cards and flowers must suffice…until we can gather at some time to honor Aunt Sue.
She was such an incredibly beautiful woman. And also outgoing and engaging. When John and Sue would drive from Minneapolis to rural southwestern Minnesota with their two kids for family gatherings, Sue was right in the thick of conversation and always eager to play board games. During those games, we threatened to use a timer because she often took too long taking her turn. At Christmas one year, I nearly convinced her that I sharpened a candy cane with a pencil sharpener. Laughter filled the farmhouse and Sue laughed right along.
Sue loved her kids and grandkids, cats and good Italian food and life. And she loved my uncle.
Today I will call Uncle John, to offer my support, but mostly to listen. Maybe he will tell me about the beautiful young woman with the thick dark bangs and her hair pulled back. The lovely bride in the above-the-knee simple white wedding dress and his wife of not-quite 52 years.
© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Audrey, I’m so sorry for your loss.
Thank you, Mark. I appreciate your condolences.
I am so sorry for the loss of your sweet aunt – especially during this difficult time when we just can’t be with each other physically. She sounds like a lovely person and one that everyone truly loved. Prayers for all who loved her as they journey through their grief.
Thank you, Beth Ann.
That is a lovely, candid image of your Aunt Sue and Uncle John. I think those photos of our young and carefree selves is what we like to remember most, and how we feel in our minds all through our lives. This photo is a treasure. Fifty-two years together is a gift. I am sorry for your loss, Audrey, and also sorry that these times do not allow us the the natural grieving process. FD and I lost a good friend about a month ago – he passed in his sleep one night. It was likely a heart attack or stroke, based on his mother’s similar passing. Because of COVID-19 there was no funeral, no gathering of family and friends. For me, it’s not about the funeral, but about spending those precious last moments… last days or weeks, being there for each other prior to death, if it is possible. That is what hurts me for your family and for your Uncle John. Comfort before death helps with the healing after.
Lori, I am sorry for the loss of your friend. I appreciate, too, your thoughtful comment.
And, yes, those candid shots are the best. I will share these with Uncle John when I see him.
It is tragic that so many families have been robbed of baptisms, confirmations, first communions, graduations, weddings, showers, wakes and funerals.
One hopes we can find a way to make them all up.
Yes, we’ve lost much in the way of human connection to celebrate and grieve. But I understand.
I’m so sorry for your loss! She sounds like a lovely woman.
Thank you. Aunt Sue was a beautiful soul.
So sad. I’m sorry for your loss, Dear Friend. Lovely photo. Precious memories. ❤
Thank you, Penny. I just spoke to my uncle and he shared several wonderful memories of his beautiful wife.
Thank you for the post about your aunt sue. I was remembering the first time I saw them in church after they were married And you are right she was gorgeous and they were so happy. For some reason I have been thinking about them lately. I am sorry you had to lose her and the horrible situation we find ourselves in.
Gorgeous and happy, yes. And now so missed. Thank you, Cheryl, for taking the time to express your condolences.
Audrey, so very sorry to learn of you Aunt’s death. She was a beautiful woman. God bless you and the rest of her family.
Thank you kindly, Norma.
John And Sue were our wonderful neighbors for years, and then we’ve met for years every Saturday morning as part of a Wedge (Minneapolis) coffee group. We are devastated — a beautiful, beautiful person; a passionate, compassionate liberal activist; and an “Outlander” fan. We can’t measure how much we miss her.
Carol, thank you for your lovely comments about your friend, and my aunt, Sue. And thank you for tipping John off to this post. We talked just a short while ago. So good to talk to him and to hear some of his memories of his beautiful bride.
Beautifully written and a true tribute to your aunt. My heart goes out to you and the family. So hard when you can’t be together at such a hard time. Wishing you peace.
Thank you, Ruth. I appreciate your kind comment.
I’m so sorry for you and your family’s loss! What a beautiful photo. I love the feel of it, the joy that is evident.
Thank you, Kathleen. It’s a beautiful image. And, as you so poetically state, filled with joy. I had a wonderful, lengthy phone conversation with Uncle John after lunch. He shared some sweet stories about him and Sue.
I’m sorry for your loss. My regard for you and your family from the south of the world.
Thank you kindly, Walter, from the north of the world.
Audrey I am so sorry for your loss, please know I am praying for your uncle, cousins and for you as this is an especially hard time to lose a loved one.
Thank you, my friend. I know you are facing your own challenges with Rick’s dad. And I am sorry for that, too.
Thank you, Hospice came to visit and assess him yesterday, I’m afraid his days are few 😦
I’m so sorry. I empathize.
Lovely tribute and so sorry for your loss. We live in hard times where many can’t even be close to those loved ones who are dying,hold their hands and speak tender words..
Exactly. So difficult for too many.
What a beautiful blog post of remembrance.
Audrey, my extended sympathies to you and your family. There is a reason for the funeral “process”, even when the illness and outcome are expected. To be denied the closeness of hugs and each other, added to this strange reality we’re in and young! ‘scuse me, the 60s are my era. Uncle John could be anyone I graduated with. May God give you all peace. (candy cane pencil sharpener, you can be a stinker!)
Thank you, Sandy. John and I had a wonderful phone conversation yesterday with lots of memories shared about Sue.
Audrey, I’m also Aunt Sue and Uncle John’s niece. My dad is Jim DeBellis, her younger brother. This is a hard time indeed. Thank you for this wonderful article and photo. I’ve never seen a photo of them on their wedding day before! I hope that we can get together soon and celebrate our aunt in a way that she deserves.
Ruby, I just asked Uncle John about you when I called him on Thursday. I remembered your lovely name. I’m thankful I could share their wedding photo with you. I love these classic, timeless black-and-white photos. They are a beautiful couples, so much in love then and to the end. My heart breaks for our dear uncle and his family and for you, too, Ruby, and your dad.
A beautiful photo capturing joy and love. I’m sorry to hear this sad news.
Thank you, Ruth. Yes, I adore that photo of my aunt and uncle. You can just see the love.