I wrote this about my Auntie Myra when she died in 2006 and thought I had lost it until I came across it recently during a sort out of drawers. I decided not to edit it because it was written from the heart in the way you can only express at the time of such an event.
Myra’s life was not without difficulty. At 14 her mother died and she left school to “keep house”. That’s how it was in those times; she cleaned and cooked and cared for my father, who was 11, and the rest of the family. I never heard her complain about it in later life; Myra was not the complaining sort. Instead, she got on and made the best of life.
My memories of her from childhood are of a fun, energetic and generous aunt who baked mountains of cakes of seemingly endless varieties. It seemed to me that the contents of those vast and many cake tins never diminished; magically, there were always more to come. I also remember the speed at which she went everywhere and the way she crossed the lights on Union Street, in Aberdeen, diagonally. Off she would go clutching my hand – a jay walker of her time. To me it seemed she had no fear.
The family holidays I remember always had Myra and my other 2 aunts, Jean and Betty, in them. The jumpers and kilts my sister and I wore, shown in now ageing photographs, were made with love by those same aunts. As a child it seemed to me there was nothing that Myra could not do.
Later, when I had my own daughter, I remember the delight in Myra’s face at first meeting her great niece; this first meeting a very special moment. My daughter was about 9 or 10 weeks at this time and we stayed a week with ‘the aunties’ as they were always collectively known to me. We were both spoilt that week in only the way that aunties can spoil their nieces. More than that, though, I remember Myra being fiercely protective of me as a single parent with a new baby. She may not have had children herself, yet she knew so much – both instinctively and from her years working as a Girl Guide leader. She talked to me on walks in Hazelhead and Duthie Park about some of those Girl Guides – she had cared much for them too.
In her latter years Myra’s health had not been so good yet her spirit, that unique sense of Myra, remained throughout. The last time I was in Aberdeen for a visit, she had slipped in and out of conversation, sometimes in the present and sometimes returning to the past. When I produced a camera, though, she leapt up, linked arms with me and turned to smile at me as we had our picture taken. I have that photograph but do not need it as the image is firmly in my mind. It is how I will remember my aunt, Myra, and is a warm memory.
We will all miss her. The idea of there not being 3 aunties as there has always been is inconceivable and, for Jean and Betty, I cannot imagine the gap Myra’s death leaves. For my dad, too, the loss of a dear sister and the woman who stepped in and did the very best she could when their mother died. And for my mum, more than just a sister-in-law; one of three true friends she made as the young woman who fell in love with and married their brother, my dad. We will all remember Myra in our own ways and with that piece of herself she gave to each of us.
Wherever she travels now, may it be in peace – it is what she deserves and is what we would all want for her. One thing is certain, she will be travelling at speed like she did across Union Street in Aberdeen, her home town.
© Liz MacKenzie