I wanted to share all of this and more at Lani’s memorial. Unfortunately my husband had the stomach flu and we barely got out of the house and ended up 30 minutes late. 😦
I will share here in the hopes that others will be able to read and enjoy my memories.
Enjoy my thoughts and memories of my Lani;
My aunt, my surrogate mother, my best friend, and a kind-hearted kindred spirit.
I don’t remember exactly when it started. As a child I liked Winnie the Pooh. So Aunt LeeAnne dubbed me Aubrypooh & she was subsequently dubbed LeeAnneepooh. The silliness stuck. Somewhere along the line, LeeAnneepooh shorted to Lanipooh and then into Lani. Until the day she passed away, Lani was what I called her, and she still signed things LeeAnneepooh to me.
There was always something special about Lani.
Without fail, growing up, I would spot her car coming up the driveway and yell, “Lanipooh!!” And run to greet her. There was always a thrill seeing her. She was just special like that.
When I was in elementary school, she would call me up an hour before bedtime and read to me over the phone. We journeyed together through the stories of Little House on the Prairie, Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and the Hardy Boys.
We would get on my Grandparent’s bed and pretend that it was a ship on the high seas and pillows were life-jackets and the waves were crashing all around us. Sometimes I’d go overboard and have to be rescued. Lani never left me behind.
It was not until my mid-teens that Lani and I gained a closer relationship.
We bonded over our love of reading and music & would engage in many spur of the moment shopping excursions in the years to come. Especially to Value Village when we had to go to the Laundromat every week that was right next door to VV. 😛 We also often enjoyed games such as War, Speed, and Spite & Malice played on whatever surface we could find.
When I was almost 18 Lani opened up her home to me and I lived with her til I was 3 months from 21. I finished my last year of high school with her and I don’t know if I would have been able to do so without her constant encouragement to press on through all of my struggles at the time. Our relationship became more like a parent/child relationship than an aunt/niece one in those years and we found acceptance in our unique companionship.
Lani being the free spirit she was, joked often that she was going to stay 16 forever. I concluded that, that was probably why we got along well. We would get into the most heated spats & an hour later would end up in the living room hugging, crying, forgiving, & Lani would say, “Let’s just move on.” Love was always bigger than everything else life threw at us.
Lani was always surprising me by introducing ME to new music artists that I hadn’t even heard of! Some of her newest favorite music was from new boy bands and obscure bands she’d have me Google, LOTS of oldies from the 1940’s to the late 1970’s, and she recently LOVED Pharrell’s “Happy!” She never cared if someone else thought that the music she listened to was too “young” for her. Lani said music made her FEEL young and that’s what mattered.
She always told me I had great value. As a teenager and young adult she made it a point to show me she respected me as an individual and as someone who was becoming an adult. We had many wonderful chats full of laughter but we also had many about life and human nature & the “why” of things that happen in our lives. She encouraged me to continue healing and growing no matter what life tossed my way and her support helped me accept that it was my nature to choose to give Grace to others who had wronged me. She saw that as a beautiful gift and as a strength.
Moving out of the home we shared didn’t stop our relationship. As I ventured out on my own, we continued to morphed into close friends. I was independent(ish) and working. She knew I didn’t need much of a parental figure anymore but still she remained my closest confidant, the main person I went to for advice, and someone who I shared a mutual respect and admiration with. We had our last conversation before bed the night before she died. Our last words shared were I love you’s and “Bye for now” a constant promise that our goodbyes were not final.
From LeeAnne I have learned that love has no concept of distance.
Love is often about the effort both parties put into the relationship and about their willingness to sacrifice for each other out of love. Lani and I chose to accept each other’s idiosyncrasies and embrace them. We sacrificed many things for each other over the years, most often our time and emotions. Each of us made time for the other. She taught me that putting others first brings you joy. Sacrificing your own desires/needs to bring joy to another iss a worthwhile goal. Never underestimate what a small act of kindness could do for someone’s day, week, month, year, LIFE.
Lani taught me that you can give in many ways,
You can give physical objects,
Or share your precious time
Give of your emotions
Or via a listening ear
Bless with an unexpected card in the mail
Warm a heart with welcoming arms ready for a hug
Give the gift of loyalty and trust
Or with your not so simple presence in someone’s life.
Lani’s biggest gift to me was simply that, her beautiful and bright presence in my life.
A constant over the last 8 years with an ever deepening relationship.
Eric said to me the other day that I had special privileges with Lani, special insight. He’s right of course. However, I didn’t earn those privileges. I gained trust over the years, but I never had to prove myself worthy enough for her. She blessed me with her love for so many wonderful reasons.
I am privileged. Honored to be allowed into the magical world Lani lived in. Even if I didn’t always understand it or her. It was a world born out of fear & heartache, which she turned into beautiful smiles on the face of others, dancing cats, & bright neon lights.
Have a virtual button on Lani, and remember to live your live in love, despite your fears. Live in love and love big. Take time to appreciate the seemingly insignificant things in life.
For in the end, those are what matter the most.