I needed to finish some last minute Christmas shopping (never again will I put it off this long) and decided to embark on a brave journey to KMart, PetSmart, and Target. Traffic was nuts. Parking lots were nuts. I was going nuts. But luckily I was finding the things I went out for.
Then in the middle of Target I got a call from my mom. I'd already talked to her twice this morning, so I figured she either found something else while she was out shopping or remembered something she'd forgotten to tell me or ask me. Instead, I heard the catch of her voice and the words no one ever wants to hear- "I have some bad news."
My Aunt Sis, who was 91, was hit by a car in my hometown this morning. She will be celebrating Christmas in heaven this year.
My heart is breaking for my Grandma. Now in one year she's lost both a son and her sister. One of her best friends, Gina, had a stroke a couple weeks ago. You'd always see the three of them together at our family functions - Grandma, Gina, and Aunt Sis.
This is the first time I've had to deal with a "public" death in the family. One of my friends was hit by a car and died when I was 12, but social media didn't really exist then. My grandpa and my uncle were both taken from us by diseases - both tragedies, but private tragedies that weren't really broadcast in the papers or online other than through our family. But because Aunt Sis was hit by a car on a major thoroughfare, the accident shut down the road and was major news. The news published it on their facebook site. Immediately people started commenting.
Now, I'm not going to pretend I know anything about what happened in the accident. Nor would I expect to be the first person to know that information. My grandma, my dad and my aunts and uncles - they should be the first ones to know (Aunt Sis didn't have any kids). I'm her great-niece. I love her very much, but I'm not demanding details right now. I understand the public has a right to know what happened. I don't know why she was crossing that busy road in particular, and I have no explanations as to how the accident occurred.
I know that my great-aunt, like my grandma, was fiercely independent and also very competent for her age. She would walk and ride the bus instead of waiting for someone to give her a ride somewhere. I'm sure she was preparing for her annual Christmas party and had the holidays on her mind, just like everyone else.
I read the comments on the news story.
I was so touched because so many of them were kind words - thoughts, prayers, sending well wishes to the family, witnesses, and first responders. Sympathy for a shocking and tragic loss at this time of year. There was so much kindness and my heart felt so full and appreciative for these strangers who were thinking of us.
Then people, as they will, started throwing in their opinions and judgments.
Where was our family? Why wasn't anyone driving her where she needed to go? Was the driver of the car that hit her going too fast or not paying attention, or both? Obviously the family of the woman is lazy and uncaring. Probably the driver was flying over the hill. Clearly it was illegal for a pedestrian to cross the road at that place.
Maybe I'm a little sadistic for continuing to read the comments, but I can't tell you how much pain I felt once people started calling my family lazy and uncaring. That's not the case at all. We ALL love Aunt Sis, and any one of us would have given her a ride had she asked. But I'm sure she just wanted to go somewhere, so she went.
I am praying for the driver of the car, because I am sure they are also feeling broken. I am praying for the witnesses and the first responders, because I would never, ever want to see an accident like that happen or bear witness to the aftermath. I am praying fiercely for my grandmother and all of my family. My heart is heavy because I'm not with any of them right now.
But I know, in my heart, that from here on out, when a news story breaks online, that I am going to try my hardest to be less judgmental and more compassionate.
Aunt Sis in the photo booth at our wedding in July
Rest in peace, Aunt Sis.