My Great Aunty Linda died early last week. She was my grandmother’s – my MaMa’s- younger sister by a couple of years. I know their mother, Eyeleene died when my grandmother was 2 years old, so she must have died when Linda was a small baby, or in childbirth. I didn’t know Aunty Linda very well at all. She lived in relatively far away Corowa, and though she and her late husband Ivan had a lot to do with my grandparents, my life didn’t intersect with that relationship.

The last time that I saw my great Aunty was at MaMa’s funeral in 2012. I mentioned her in my eulogy and she spoke to me afterwards, touching the bump of my advanced pregnancy. She had left a wreath in soft pinks and mauves and had had her daughter make up a little card on the computer. The simple message on it read

‘I will always remember us as the Raymond sisters’.

Two motherless little girls in a family of boys, they grew up as close as sisters can be. MaMa was an extraordinary seamstress and pattern maker who could look at glamorous copies of outfits worn on the silver screen and go home and copy them. According to Aunty Linda, MaMa – Vera – looked like the film star Hedy Lamarr. So the story goes. Their father owned a pub in Victoria St in Richmond (Melbourne), that I used to walk past every day on my way to work, without the knowledge that it cupped their long ago history.

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The thing that struck me about Aunty Linda’s death was that she had a wonderfully fulfilling life, and lived to 89, so it was easy to celebrate the triumph of life well lived, rather than mourn the full stop of death, but what she took with her was another huge chunk of MaMa. She was the last of that family, and the last person who knew my grandmother as a child, as a girl and a young woman, before she met my grandfather, when she was one of a different pair – the Raymond Sisters. Aunty Linda was the last person who knew MaMa when she looked like this.

Graham Greene wrote this in The End of the Affair:

A week ago I had only to say to her ‘Do you remember that first time together and how I hadn’t got a shilling for the meter?’, and the scene would be there for both of us. Now it was there for me only. She had lost all our memories forever, and it was as though by dying she had robbed me of part of myself. I was losing my individuality. It was the first stage of my own death, the memories dropping off like gangrened limbs.’

And it speaks eloquently to me of how much of our true selves are tied up in shared memories. As I write now, it occurs to me that a photo of Aunty Linda actually looks down on me from the wall above my bookshelf, in the bottom frame of a triptych of my father and his siblings and cousins at play as children, there, behind the bent blond head of my father, smiles Aunty Linda. It brings a smile to my lips. Vale, beautiful lady.

 

Linking up today with Essentiallyjess.com for #IBOT