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Writing has always been a therapy for me. Often, I write just for myself. Occasionally, I feel the nudge to share something that wasn’t originally intended to be shared. I try to listen to this voice … this nudge … because you never know who may read it and need it in some way or another. This is that. My aunt passed away a few weeks and I struggled to process it. I just felt … anxious … uneasy. Once, I let the words out, I felt better. It was for me, and me alone … but somehow here I am, sharing it with you. I think my aunt might be okay with having these words out in the world, so here we go …

My own small tribute to my aunt, Nancy …

“Favorite Aunt Nancy”

She called herself “Favorite Aunt Nancy” … always. And, it was funny, because we both knew she wasn’t my favorite. She persisted and I resisted. We were each difficult in our own way, I suppose. I can’t really explain that. She wanted to be the favorite so she took the title and claimed it as her own. She never stopped using it. “Hi, this is your favorite Aunt Nancy” she’d say whenever she called or left a message. Eventually she started saying it to my own children too. 

I’ll never understand why some people are dealt the hands they are. Why some lives seem just fraught with bad luck and unbearable amounts of pain. Hers was one. I know that this life is full of stories like hers and I understand that there is no such thing as “fair”, but man, I wish it could have been different.

Nancy certainly had her vices and her demons. She made her share of bad decisions along the way. But, she had a big heart and she loved her people. She loved me. She loved my children. I know that she wanted to know them and see them and be around them. I wish … again, I wish things could have been different. I could say we lived too far away (we did.) I could say that she was too much, too difficult (she was.) But, the truth is easy. I could have been a better niece. I wasn’t the best. I wasn’t really there. Not for her. It’s hard not to reflect on these types of sadnesses when you lose someone. There is truth in all of it. Good or bad.

Instead I will remember different times. I will remember holidays and hugs. I will remember visiting her at the candy store where she worked … maybe somewhere in Ohio. Though, I always come back to this vague memory over and over … and I don’t know why. There is white chocolate, which I loved, and there is an apartment … it’s all fuzzy like childhood memories can be … twinged with a sadness that I couldn’t place all those years ago. I will remember her laughing at Thanksgiving, teasing my dad. I will remember visiting the flower shop she owned. I will remember her on the dance floor at my own wedding … ready to catch the bouquet. The truth is, too many memories of her involve hospital beds and sickness, cigarettes and Pepsi … and too many bizarre conversations.

She loved me.

She was my aunt. 

She deserved a better life.

She deserved more.

I will remember her. One of the important women that shaped me. 

Favorite Aunt Nancy, I hope you are whole and healthy … and full of that fiery spirit that you always had. I hope you are with PaPa and Harold and all the others that you have loved and lost along the way. I hope you feel alive in a way you just couldn’t on this Earth. 

I wish you peace.

I will miss hearing you sing to me when my birthday rolls around.

I loved you too.

Nancy Lee Burchett 3/28/1960 – 2/27/2024


  • William Smith says:

    What a wonderful tribute to “Your Favorite Aunt, Nancy”. I believe a good writer can tackle difficult issues just as competently as the easy ones. You have captured all the nuances of a relationship with Nancy. She was a paradox on so many levels. She made it difficult to love her at times. Yet we all did to some degree. It may not have been easy, but it was always interesting. Anyway, thank you for writing this, and thank you for sharing it.

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