Family means a source of love and support; wherever you get that from, that’s your family.
On April 11, 1992, I was delivered into this world. I took my first breath and began what has been a challenging, but beautiful and blessed life. There to welcome me were doctors, nurses, my mother (of course), and a woman who would become a source of love and motivation—a pillar in my foundation of support: my Aunt Doris.
For the next 26 years, she was there through it all. She was a staple in my world and never missed an opportunity to offer words of encouragement or love. She saw things in me that, for the longest time, I couldn’t. At every step, when I got down on myself or felt I wasn’t good enough, strong enough, or worthy of something good, she was there to remind me of everything I was capable of and blessed with. She believed in me more than I ever could—I still don’t think I believe in myself the way she did. She taught me to embrace and celebrate my talents and, all the while, was there to cheer me on.
She once sent me a message on Facebook that read, “All those Saturdays at dance, you never noticed me… but I was watching YOU and it brought me such JOY!” The truth is, I always saw her… I knew she was always there, just as she always had been. I will never forget giving it everything I had as she sat in that doorway in between the studios and looked on—just to make her proud. I’ll say it now and I’ll say it always: she was my biggest fan and for that, I will be forever grateful. She never missed a show, she never missed a milestone… I mean, the woman never even missed a blog post.
On June 30th, my Aunt passed. Today, I am on my way to my hometown for one of the hardest goodbyes of my life. I’ve been struggling with accepting a world without her in it since I got the news, but am trying my very hardest to focus on all the incredible memories we’ve shared and remember it’s never truly goodbye.
One of the last memories I have of her is the look on her face as I married my best friend. I looked over Nick’s shoulder during the ceremony to glance at my parents’ table and saw her looking at me the way she has since the day I was born: a look of unconditional and immeasurable pride and love. I am so grateful that she was there to see that day. I do weep for the days she will miss, but I had an angel by my side for 26 years and I couldn’t have asked for more.
To close, I want to answer the question I’ve been asked countless times:
“Was she your mom’s sister or your dad’s?”
She was neither.
My aunt Doris was not a blood relative, but the bond she shared with my family went deeper and was stronger than blood. She is living proof that family is not measured by strands of matching DNA. She is proof that you can love someone as family without sharing a biological connection. She is proof that “family” means so much more.
To my beautiful Aunt, thank you for believing in me. Thank you for seeing things in me I had turned a blind eye on. Thank you for loving me and my family with such fervor and for opening your heart to us for so many years. You are loved, you will be missed, and I will do everything in my power to continue making you proud. My world will not be the same without you. Love you always.