I meant to write this the day we left. But like usual, we were in such a hurry to hoist all the boxes out in an orderly fashion, trying to make sure we left things the way we found them – a total failure on our part, our one year old and pets have each left their own delightful and unique mark – and even though at the time the move itself felt all-consuming, I still detected a sadness stir as the boxes shifted from one place to another. We were, once again, packed and moving. Leaving yet another home. Not terribly unlike the moves before, but still this was different enough to know in my gut that this home had come to mean much more than any of the others, and at the end of it all, it wasn’t easy to leave.

When it finally sat empty, in the back of my mind I could see the imprints of the memories that remained: Dramatic scenes, like Jeff and I on our couch that first November both sick with pneumonia, cuddling because we thought ourselves lovers only inches from grim death. Hilarious memories, like me at seven months pregnant, naked and spread-eagle on the floor crying dramatically over my oversized baby-belly. Romantic memories of the nights filled with long conversation between my husband and I, making our marriage ever more solid. Even memories of unconscious quirky habits, like watching to see when my Aunt’s bedroom light would turn off, just like she said her mom used to do when my grandmother lived beside her in that very same apartment.

This apartment was my grandmother’s last home. It was Jonah’s first home. And for Jeff and myself, this apartment was more than a rent-free roof right in the heart of Vancouver … we made some of our biggest strides within it. Jeff graduated university, we had our first child, and Jonah lived out his first year with family by his side. We never paid a hydro bill, we never saw a maintenance account, we never had to worry about anything you would think two thirty year olds should have to worry about. My Aunt said, “It was what your grandmother would have wanted.” And, while I think to some extent that is true, I think there is more truth in saying that I have an Aunt that lives by one creed: why take when you can give. And that barely begins expresses properly how over the last three years she was a mother to us both. All at once she was a protector and provider. She was supportive and present. She gave advice and she kept us company. She was there when Jeff and I were down and out and she showed up every time without complaint or reservation. She was and continues to be the guard in our corner, our ace in the pocket and a guiding light in our little life … and these are only to name a few of the generosities she bestowed without giving anything a second thought.

A deep feeling of gratitude lies within me when I think about how my Aunt embraced my husband as part of the Mapleton clan. Unlike my mother and I – two women who tend to clobber wildly and loudly with our boisterous love – my Aunt is a very gentle creature. A quality I’ve admired about her since I was a little girl, because I have sadly always been a tad too rough & tumble. And, to this day I tend to be a little manic in my mood swings and emotions, and in the past I’ve worried over whether Jeff had anyone around that was just more his speed, a bit more like him. A gentle, quiet and sensitive soul my husband carries within and some times life among the Mapletons – well, we worry can be a little more overbearing than such a soul can bear. Whether she sensed it or not, it has never mattered. My Aunt was the one that made a conscious effort to make Jeff comfortable in ways that were just perfectly his speed. And, because of this she made a connection with Jeff unlike any of the ones the rest of us had managed. Jeff found a friend and confidant next door that seemed to really understand him on levels many fail to even realize are there and she took the time to see him for who he is … a brilliant but quiet man. My Aunt found ways to bring the best out in him and I know from experience that my husband only shows his true inner self to a select few, those he trusts implicitly and respects immensely. My Aunt’s warmth, kindness and wisdom truly built a sanctuary for my husband. She contributed crucially to his well-being just by being his confidant and the day she moved away and was no longer right next door, Jeff turned to me and said, “But what will I do without Marjorie?”

In writing this and upon reflecting I realize now what her contributions to our lives really mean. I always liked to think that it was your duty, or your chance in life to make your mark upon the world. Change it, better it, leave your legacy and get into the history books … but the world as I know it has been marked by many and I wonder now if that is what we are meant to do in this life. I don’t know if I’ll ever change the world for the better … but I know how to change the lives of the loved ones around me. It’s just a matter of following my Aunt’s example: give more and take less – and you will change the world – their world.