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"You love me so much, don't you."

My Great Aunt Mary will always be one of my favorite people who ever lived. She would make random visits to Arkansas and when she did, she would call and ask if she could come see me. The visits weren't very long but in such a short time I felt so much love from this sweet lady. She always made sure I knew how much she loved me. In the best way I knew how, I would try to convey how much she meant to me and figured she knew because at the end of our conversation, she would say, "You love me so much, don't you." That always made my heart feel special because Aunt Mary understood....I really did love her so much. 

I'll never forget the time I worked at a grocery story as a teenager and she surprised me with a visit. We didn't have a lot of time that day but she would visit with me briefly in between customers. When it was time for her to leave, I hugged her and told her how much it meant that she came by to see me. Just as always, she hugged me back and said, "You love me so much, don't you." And I replied, "Yes, Aunt Mary...I really do." Several years later, when I was pregnant with my first child, I woke up one morning and had Aunt Mary on my mind. I hadn't seen her in several years as her body wouldn't allow her to travel like she once did. Spring break was coming up and I called my mom with a random idea. She and I quickly decided that a trip to California to visit Aunt Mary would be a blast. When we got there, Aunt Mary was still the same, sweet soul I had known since I was a tiny girl. She had this distinct glow, with soft white hair and light skin. A certain fragrance, like baby powder, always accompanied our hugs. I love that smell and to this day, when I think of Aunt Mary, I can remember her perfume. The only difference this time was that Aunt Mary's body was weak and she moved slower. She also had to have help getting in and out of her bed. There were so many little things that Aunt Mary had done for us on that trip that still make my heart smile. She managed to get up enough strength, with the help of her sweet daughter Bev, to travel to the Red Oak Forest so we could see it. With her feeble hands, she had also made 2 little quilts for my baby. She made one specifically from her and a second one "from my Memaw Geneva," who had passed away a couple of years before. She said she knew that my Memaw would have made me one so she wanted my baby to have one from her. I am tearing up as I write this...these were the kinds of things that Aunt Mary did. She always thought of others and wanted people to feel special. That visit to California was one that I will always cherish but as a 29-year-old pregnant woman, I observed our time together differently than I had before. I listened more and was able to see Aunt Mary's life from the inside of her world. Not only did she do special things for me, I witnessed that the love she had for me, was the same love she had for so many others. Aunt Mary's love and legacy had been permeated into the lives of so many people. What was an even greater realization was that she KNEW that she was just as loved in return... In between our conversations as she sat up in her bed, Aunt Mary would get calls often. The phone calls came from friends and family from all over. Some were even from extended family members who were just calling to tell her that they loved her. At the end of the conversation, I would hear familiar words as Aunt Mary would say, "You love me so much, don't you." As I listened to those words, I realized that Aunt Mary understood something that every human needs to know....she knew something that I had longed to know. She not only gave love, but she truly received it just as freely and wasn't afraid to say it! "You really love me, don't you." ...

It wasn't a question. It was a confident statement that she had said to me and others for years.... She didn't let shame or words of hurt from her journey of life keep her from knowing that she was loved. She not only sowed seeds of love into others' lives, she opened her heart to accept them just as freely as she gave it. I could easily look back and wonder why in the world I decided to make a trip to California in 2009 with a huge pregnant belly, on a random whim. With my work schedule and busy life that year, it doesn't make sense. But what I do know is that the heart longs to be loved and gravitates to those who make it feel valued. My heart apparently found its way to Aunt Mary and got exactly what it needed. And in turn, Aunt Mary got to see me one more time and know how much I loved her. We both experienced something that fed our hearts and souls.... At the end of our trip, as we hugged one last time, Aunt Mary said, "You really love me, don't you." I smiled big and said, "Yes, Aunt Mary, I really do." Approximately a year later, Aunt Mary went Home. If I could pattern my life after anyone on this earth, Aunt Mary would definitely be one of those at the top. She not only helped me feel loved and special, but she freely accepted my love in return...she understood that giving and accepting love must be equal. To be able to say, "You really love me, don't you." ...

...and to really believe it, takes a person who understands "love" at its core. Thank you Aunt Mary for teaching me and others, not only how to freely give love, but how accepting it is just as important. Ps.... "You love me so much, don't you." ❤

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