Hi everyone, it’s great to see all of your faces. I’m Jacquie, the youngest of Joe and Ellen Corey’s six girls, and Aunt Lill’s favorite.
When I was a kid, seeing Aunt Lill usually meant that it was a special occasion. I have a vivid mental image of her, sitting with Uncle Rod on the couch at Uffie’s house, scotch in hand, ashtrays full, the smell of sausage bread and Christmas dinner coming from the kitchen.
The expression that I remember most on Aunt Lill’s face was her wry sort of quizzical smile that usually meant she was waiting to hear if you had something to say.
She was a think-aloud sort of person, wasn’t she? Her opinions didn’t often remain unspoken. I don’t recall having a particularly similarity of thinking back in the 70s and 80s over Christmas dinner, but it was cool to discover in adulthood how likeminded we really were, especially when we talked politics in recent years.
She told it like it was. She recently commented to me that her nurse assistants “weren’t the sharpest tools in the shed.” And Lill was the original bearer of one of our most frequently quoted Corey-isms, from a holiday meal when Uffie regretfully informed her holiday dinner guests that she was having problems with her oven, and Aunt Lill quipped: “Oh my God, we’re never gonna eat!”
Aunt Lill was really smart. Most avid readers are. She enjoyed emailing back and forth with her nieces, my sisters, about what she was reading. She appreciated a wide and varied scope of material. A couple of years ago, she told Jane, and I quote: “I READ A LOT, WHICH HELPS TO KEEP ME SANE. I ENJOYED STEVE JOBS’ BIO. I SHOULDN'T ADMIT IT BUT I ALSO READ THE FIFTY SHADE SERIES. VERY READABLE GARBAGE.”
Aunt Lill was also frugal, and although appreciative of the help that my mom and especially my cousin Sis were always there to give, she often doled out her thanks with a caveat. She said to mom after an intense visit: “THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR ALL YOU DID FOR ME. YOU ARE A GOOD PERSON. SIS CAME IN TODAY AND I MADE THE MISTAKE OF GIVING HER MY CREDIT CARD. I JUST NEEDED A FEW LITTLE THINGS AND SHE CAME BACK WITH A BUNCH OF STUFF I’LL NEVER EAT. (ABOUT $56 AND CHANGE WORTH). LIVE AND LEARN.” Don’t even get me started on those apples, Sissie.
In the beautiful obituary that Ellie wrote, she talked about Lill’s Lebanese pride: “Lill was fiercely proud of her Lebanese heritage, and – along with the rest of the family – excelled at Lebanese cooking. The family created and enjoyed many wonderful Lebanese meals together, which were always a celebration”. Thinking back specifically, though, what stands out for me even more than her cooking was her appreciation of the food.
Ann recalls Auntie Lill always wanting bread with her meal, and she was the boss so we always had it.
We visited 2 weeks ago and brought a plate of leftovers from the Lebanese feast we’d enjoyed the day before. Lill wasn’t hungry, but she wanted to see, and when she caught sight of the grape leaves she popped one right into her mouth and declared “it’s good.” Truth be told, they were a little dry. I think she’d mellowed with age.
Julie remembers that in a conversation about enduring her prognosis, Lill said that her baby brother always called her a tough cookie. She sure loved that brother of hers. She cracked Julie up telling her, with lots of eye rolling, about when dad came along and to their parents it was “like Allah come down from heaven.” Apparently, her brother could do no wrong growing up. Julie also recalled having been the one to place the phone call to tell Aunt Lill that our dad had died. It was tough. She was so shocked and distraught. She called him her baby brother and whimpered with sadness.
Mary Beth spoke of Aunt Lill as fun and funny: “She loved her family, her books, her baseball team, current events, her 1998 Oldsmobile Intrigue, pop culture – she was a big fan of the TV show Blue Bloods, and confessed to a crush on Tom Selleck! She was opinionated, warm and generous. No visit to her home was complete without a sampling of her sausage breads and refills of your wine glass!”
Opinionated, Smart, Frugal, Warm, Fun, Tough, Funny, Proud, Loving… all words that aptly describe our Lill.
Words were important in our relationship.
She and I kept in regular, albeit brief, daily contact through the message feature on Words with Friends. We always had at least 2 games going, often 3 or 4 because Lill had a hard time resisting the 'rematch' button that pops up for both players whenever a game ends. In recent months that message center became a touchstone for Lill's day to day wellbeing. When I saw her active light illuminate, I knew that she was okay and checking in, even if she didn't feel up to chatting. She was brutally honest about how she was doing. She knew that her time was short and it was clear that she was thinking about it, not with overwhelming fear or grief, perhaps with a bit of trepidation, but mostly with acceptance and a hint of impatience.
She very recently played the word GRAVE then commented “my next stop,” then immediately apologized for her morbid humor.
One of her last messages to me was: “I guess when it’s time to go, it’s time to go (profound statement). 92 is a long time to be around. Love you honey.”
"I am ok considering the malady. I couldn’t run a marathon, but don’t really want to"
She always referred to “your lovely mom” , she often segued from talk about her prognosis with “who knows?” and she always, always ended with, “I LOVE YOU, SWEETIE” in all caps.
I love you too, Auntie Lill. A world without your words won’t be as fun.