My Aunt Mara was born January 6th, 1971
the fourth child born to my grandparents, Pat & Ron, she was by all means a surprise and quite miraculous.
At 44 years old, my grandmother gave birth to a healthy little girl.
The last girl of three children.
(yeah that’s a little me, always excited for other people’s birthdays)
and although my grandparents were older and had not expected a fourth child, I know that as the unexpected baby she was loved greatly.
When I was small, I could not think of my own mother or my grandmother without thinking of the “Stainbrook Women”
We come from a long line of strong, loud and opinionated women.
You could not think of any one of them without the other, because they were so much like one another and still so different.
But still she was the baby, sometimes the “cool aunt” because she was so much younger than our parents, and the beauty.
Although she had a different kind of relationship with each one of these four women, I know that her relationship with my aunt Michele was at times the closest.
Closer in age, they spent more years growing up together than my mother and her older brother.
The photo of my aunt Mara on her graduation day always hit home in a significant way for me.
In the photo, my aunt Michele is holding my cousin as a baby.
When I look back at my own baby sister’s graduation day, my son is in our arms.
My little boy was born only a few short months before my little sister graduated high school.
It is this small connection, that helps me understand the strong relationship they had in their younger years.
Because my little sister is my best friend and definitely the “cool aunt” for my little man.
It is one more detail that connects me to this, in such a bittersweet way.
This, is my family.
Though we continue to change, move, grow and die….this will probably always be how I remember them most.
This will now be the last photo of all of us taken together
and this will be the last healthy photo I ever take of my aunt
On November 2nd, 2015
After a very brief yet strong battle with cancer
We had to say goodbye
these will be the last moments I will be able to capture of my grandparents and their children.
I’m sure everyone in our family continues to understand the feeling, “if we only would have known”
(she adored my little guy like he was another nephew)
So here I am, remembering all of these things about this woman who through my life was always present.
From my first experiences with makeup, to my first child and my wedding day….she was there.
Then, we were told she wouldn’t be.
My mind could not comprehend this information and I was terrified.
I stayed in denial until I couldn’t any longer and yet I was still terrified.
I didn’t want to admit I had taken for granted the idea that she would just always be there.
Then, in a strange twist of fate, my grandmother was injured and could no longer be at her baby’s bedside as she passed.
What follows are not “happy photos”, these are the photos I took for my grandmother in case she didn’t make it back to say goodbye to her child.
They are hard and raw, but they are real.
The reality of what comes at the end of whatever choices you make every day.
So these will be the last photos I ever take of my auntie.
I wish I had taken one more chance to say I’m sorry for expecting she’d always be here.
(my sweet brave little soul, who has seen far too much death and insisted on saying goodbye)
We love you Mara.
With your big blue eyes and huge heart.
No one will forget your brief and bright presence.
Your death will not be in vain
My aunt’s last days on earth were loved beyond measure.
Many of her long lifetime friends rallied around her roommate and my mother to allow her to die peacefully and with dignity.
I will share a few photos of these amazing people.
It is because of these wonderful people that this journey to the end was possible, it was loving and it was beautiful.
Thank you is not adequate