My aunt Linda (pictured left), whose personality always seemed unbreakable, was one of the few relatives that I sought out at parties and family holidays. I can remember pulling up a chair next to her just so I could hear the stories she would tell. In fact, if a family get-together began to fade, she was the one you could count on to reenergize the entire household in minutes by revealing just enough of our parent's past to keep all of us kids hanging on her every word. We all loved to hear her reassure us that our parents were kids just like us!
And I doubt my dad even realizes this, but I learned more about him and what kind of boy he was just by listening to Aunt Linda's childhood memories...
Up to the very end, Linda always remained uncommonly close to her daughter, Tonya (my cousin - above right). The enduring relationship that they shared should be envied by all mothers and daughters.
My heart goes out to you, Tonya... You've shown strength and resolve over the past few months that everyone knew hid behind that full-toothed grin you inherited from your mom. I am humbled by your unlimited benevolence during the most trying of days; and as I raise my own daughter and son, I will always consider the two of you as role models.
Your mom was an energetic, adventurous, compassionate, hysterical, and devoted mother, grandmother, sister and aunt. Her memory will live on with us all...
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My aunt Linda died of malignant melanoma. She is the third person in my family to be diagnosed with the disease, and the second to die from it.
Please, please pay attention to your skin. Malignant melanoma can be cured if you catch it early, but kills quickly if you don't.