June in my family has usually been a month of celebrations and joy: my mom and I both have June birthdays, summer break is in effect and we get to enjoy the sun and the blessing of living at a beach. This June, however, has been a very different story...

At the time I'm writing this, the world has lost two incredibly influential people: Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett, who displayed that even if you come from humble beginnings, you can achieve anything you want if you hone your skills and strive to be the best you truly can be. Their influence is immeasurable and they touched so many people during both of their short lives.

However on June 3, my mother lost her big sister, my sister & I lost our aunt, my uncle lost his wife and my two cousins lost their mother. On Wednesday, June 3, at 12:30pm, my Aunt Christine passed away after a brave and difficult struggle with endometrial cancer. Christine was born in 1951 and became the tough, tomboy older sister of 5 who grew up on Long Island, NY, graduated high school and felt a calling to do what so few of us can do: care for others. She graduated in 1972 from St. Vincent's Nursing College. But as she was starting her nursing career, she went to a party and met a vivacious, driven and passionate law student who told her that night that he was going to marry her. Within 9 months they were married and a partnership started that would last over 30 years. Christine encouraged my uncle to start his own law firm and also, when her husband and family would complain about the deteriorating state of their little New Jersey town, she encouraged him to run for Mayor. My uncle won and over 15 years the two of them helped rebuild their town into one of the most unique and prosperous places to live in New Jersey. My Aunt's obituary correctly mentioned that she was affectionately known as the "First Lady" of her town.

(my aunt Christine is in the middle w/ my mom & other aunt behind her. My uncle is sitting in Christine's lap. Photo circa 1959)
But the Aunt Christine I knew was a little different than what the public remembers. My parents and my aunt and uncle were VERY close in the early 80s when I was born -- they were my second set of parents. It was at that time that all 4 of them invested in land at a relatively unknown area at the time called the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The video of my first steps into the arms of my aunt and mom have my uncle and dad in the background going over floor plans for the new house in Corolla. I spoke some of my first words on the deck of that beautiful beach house as it was being constructed and so many memories of the first 10 years of my life included my aunt, uncle parents and that beach house. So much joy, love, family and happiness happened within the walls and around their houses in North Carolina & New Jersey.
(my aunt Christine, in teal, holding me right after the completion of the Corolla Beachhouse in 1984. My dad and mom are on the left, my uncle is on the right)

I also admired more than anything my Aunt Christine's ability to grasp life and live it to the fullest. She always told people how she felt and what she was thinking -- a rare quality in this day of super-political correctness. It sometimes came off as abrupt and caught people offguard at times, but Christine didn't care, she told people what she thought because she cared. She cared more than most people I will ever meet. Ever the nurse, Christine would always be watching out for you, be the first to take the shirt off her back if you needed it, give you food if you were hungry or just be a shoulder to cry on when you needed solace. She cooked better than anyone I've ever met (she once took over the kitchen of a closed Italian restaurant because her and her friends were hungry -- she fed the wait staff while she was at it) and threw the most amazing parties. Christine was beautiful in every way, shape and form and as she battled the cancer waging war against her inside, she wouldn't let it stop her from being herself. That's why the untimely death of Farrah Fawcett haunts me more so than Michael Jackson's - Farrah fought the same courageous battle that my aunt fought and did it with grace, and strength. Watch "Farrah's Story" and that was Christine and every other woman and man battling this evil (and yes, I do believe it's a tool of Satan) disease.
(my mom, grandma, grandpa & Aunt Christine in 2007, while in remission)

So while I, as a child of the 80s mourn MJ (My mom used to work out to "Thiller" while she was pregnant with me) and Farrah Fawcett, I truly memorialize my aunt as the beautiful woman she was and use her as a true inspiration. My family find comfort in knowing she is no longer in pain in this cruel and difficult world and is perfect and whole up heaven with her maker. And when I walk down the aisle to my beautiful fiance in September, it will be in Corolla - the place that held so much joy and love for Christine and who I know would have loved to have been sitting in the pews of that little chapel next to her husband. So Aunt Christine, I love you and you will be missed more than words can describe.

Heres to July -- a month of bright beginnings for so many people. May we take every day as a gift and a blessing with true gusto.

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