Joan Gulyas, 1940 - 2009

It’s taken me two weeks to be able to write about my Aunt Joan’s death. She died on February 4, in a hospice, surrounded by her family. She died of lung cancer, which had metastasized to her brain.

Dad and Stanley and I went to visit her in the hospital in December, just after Mom’s funeral. I was shocked when I saw her—I knew she had cancer and I knew she’d been undergoing treatment for it, but I didn’t expect she’d be so thin. But she was awake and aware and totally pissed off because she wanted to go home—she was bored with being in the hospital. And she wasn’t ready to leave this mortal coil yet—she said she had things to do still.

Joan Gulyas and daughter Wendy, 11/6/04, by Leo Robertson
Joan Gulyas and her daughter Wendy, November 6, 2004 at Mom and Dad’s Golden Anniversary gala, photo by Leo Robertson. (click to enlarge a little)

When Dad called me to tell me she’d died—something I knew would happen too soon—it felt like a searing pain in the middle of my chest. I couldn’t breathe. Another person so important in my life gone. My mother’s sister, another of the Wyandotte Dunn Girls, gone. She was just 68. I tried to write several times, but I couldn’t—my heart is still raw from losing Mom and thinking about Aunt Joan just let loose all these memories and loss and I’m just now starting to get a grip on it all. I have a card to send to Uncle Ron, Wendy, and Michael—I haven’t been able to think about what to write in it so I can send it. Maybe I’ll be able now that I can finally write about it.

She was smart and funny and fun and, I think, courageous—she could have given up her battle with cancer when her son, Keith, died on May 26, 2007—but she didn’t. It’s way too soon to have lost her—I had some questions about our family tree that I was going to ask her about last spring when we started talking via email, but she went out of remission and I started dealing with the reality of Mom’s FTD and we never did continue past a few messages back and forth. I’m sorry I didn’t make a chance to ask her more. I did find her messages in the forums though—it’s kind of eerie, reading them.

It’s funny—when I think about Aunt Joan, I think about her when she was married, with kids, when I’d go babysit for her, or we’d just go over to her house with Mom to just hang out and I’d listen to Mom and Joan talk, their humor, their “sister” language that I mostly understood but not all of it, their intelligence. But when I dream about Aunt Joan, I dream about her as a teenager, in high school and just afterward until she married Ron, and I remember Ron riding on his bike to see her and wearing a babushka to keep his ears warm and how she laughed, and playing the “stone game” on the steps of the front porch of the house she and Mom grew up in, and how pretty she and my Mom and aunts all were ... all from before I was six or seven years old.

Next week we will make a donation in her name to the Wyandotte Public Schools Scholarship Foundation, which was listed in her obituary in the Detroit Free Press. And I’ll send that card.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/21/09 at 04:59 AM
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