Mildred Alice Brooks is my maternal aunt, my only aunt. She has been another mother to me, to my brother, to my sister. Given the pronounced difference in their ages, she has often been another mother to my mother, too. On Tuesday she watched Barack Obama take the oath of office, and very shortly after that, she closed her eyes. I think she held on for Barack, held on so she could see him become our 44th president. As long ago as last spring she stopped eating, stopped keeping the powerful grip on life that has always defined her for me. She seemed to have decided she was ready to die. There’s no reason she should have been able to hang on this long, but hang on she did. Selfishly, I wish she had been able to hang on a little longer, but I know this is better, that now she has returned to the vibrant, independent woman who has had such an influence on my life, that she is with her mother and her brothers.
She was a biology teacher, a summer camp nature counselor, an herbalist and a naturopath. She has probably already organized a live-off-the-land trip, set up a butterfly house, taught someone how to paint with flowers, cooked up a batch of chokecherry jam. I know this is better, but that doesn’t lessen my grief. Now I have the task of writing her obituary. How do I condense ninety-four energetic, technicolor years into a few simple paragraphs?
Mildred Alice Brooks, 1914-2009