It’s morning and I am five years old.

I slip out of bed and pad down the hall to the bathroom. The spare bedroom door is ajar, and I can’t resist a curious peep inside. Sensing my gaze, the woman in the bed stirs and opens her eyes. She spots me and her eyes light up.

“Hello, sweetie! Come in and give me a hug!” she insists.

I break into a smile.

Minutes later, I am in the bathroom and watching with fascination as my aunt shows me how she takes her blood sugar reading. Then she injects herself with insulin while I marvel at her bravery. I hate getting a simple vaccination, and yet she tells me that she sticks needles in her arm multiple times every day?

I proudly tell people that my aunt has “diabeetles”.

At age 5, these are the things I know about my father’s sister:

  • She potty trained me as a surprise for my parents when she babysat me one weekend.
  • She is very brave and gives herself injections.
  • She has diabeetles.
  • She thinks I’m special.

As time goes on and I grow older, I realize that my aunt just adores small children. I take this to mean that she didn’t actually adore ME, just my young age. The childhood worship fades, but you can’t help but love a sweetheart like my aunt.

A quarter of a century later, I am peeping in another bedroom door. At first she doesn’t notice me – my father is bending over her for a hug. But then she spots me peeking in the door, and her trembling hand covers her mouth.

“Oh… Carol…You came all this way..?”

I bend over to hug her emaciated frame, eaten by cancer, and tears stand in her eyes.

It was a long trip for one last visit, but it was worth it… to say hi one more time.