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My own independence is something that I value highly. Even as a child I was independent and (according to some people) a bit stubborn. But, to some extent that independence was an illusion.
I was blessed to have the support of not just two parents but essentially four: my Mom, Dad, Stepdad and Aunt. Because of their support, trust in me, and willingness to let me forge my own path, I was able to develop some sense of independence. However, as much as I would have liked to believe that as child or teenager I was fully independent, that simply wasn’t the case. I was very much dependent on the adults in my life, and I still am. My Aunt Linda was the person I relied on most for advice and guidance. I don’t think that I ever made a significant decision in my life without seeking her counsel. Until I had to.
Aunt Linda died a year and a half ago. After she died I felt very much alone and suddenly decision making seemed 100% more difficult. Suddenly I felt very lost, and then came the reckoning that it was time for me to grow up, at the age of 34. However, it wasn’t that I needed to grow up as much as to realize that the person who had been my rock for the last thirty-four years was no longer there to answer my questions or give advice. I would have to adjust.
I’ve made a lot of decisions over the last year and half, and every single one has been a painful reminder that my Aunt Linda isn’t here. There are no more daily phone calls or trips to Florida. No more emails. I do have the many lessons that she taught me about self reliance and how to objectively consider a decision. I also have the benefit of knowing that no matter what I did or what mistakes I may have made, Aunt Linda loved me unconditionally. There was no mistake that couldn’t be overcome. Something all of my parents taught me, that life could be what I made of it. There are still quiet times when I talk to her. I don’t get answers back, but I do get a renewed sense of peace.
To me gaining independence is entirely about responding to change. December 10, 2010 will always mark a day of independence for me. December 10th will always be the day that my aunt died. And, as much as I miss her and love her I am thankful to feel like she is at peace and not suffering. December 10th will also always be the day that I finally understood that being independent included losing my loved one. That part of my independence wasn’t easily welcomed. I was perfectly happy to have the illusion of independence where I made my decisions and choices at my discretion with the support of my four parents. I still value my independence but, after Aunt Linda’s death, I have a greater appreciation for the relationships I share with family and friends and truly value dependence on another person.