Photo: Bonnie Natka (flickr)

I just found out that my favorite aunt died. The weird thing is that she died last month, and nobody told me about it, so I missed her funeral. I only found out that she’d died because when I phoned to catch up, a recorded message said her number was no longer in service.

When you’re calling a woman in her late 80s, this isn’t a good sign. So I went online, Googled her and found an obit.

I’m sad and a little freaked out – why didn’t her daughters bother to tell me? Although she lived in Detroit, where I grew up, and I now live in Philadelphia, I’d have flown in for the funeral. Hell, I’d have flown in even if I lived in China! I would have wanted to mourn her with the other people who loved her, instead of sitting alone, shocked and sad, at my computer, reading about her funeral a month after it took place.

A friend suggests that perhaps her daughters didn’t realize that even though I rarely visited, the two of us kept in touch by phone.  We’d check in every other month or so and enjoy hour-long conversations about our lives, the family, politics and the books we were reading. She was great fun to talk with and a terrific person — smart, unconventional, always optimistic and unfailingly supportive. When I left the practice of law to work at my local public library, she backed my decision without question. “Great move!” she told me. “You’ll love library work.”  She was there for me throughout my difficult divorce.

The last time we spoke, I’d told her of my son’s upcoming wedding. (She wouldn’t be able to attend — legally blind and 87, she no longer traveled.) When I fretted a bit about the fact that my son was only 22, she reassured me. “He’s very mature for his age. And you’ve told me how much you love his fiancé. In my generation, we all got married young. They’ll be fine.”

When I called her number, I was looking forward to telling her all about the wedding. I’m sorry that we’ll never have that conversation, although she’d be the first person to counsel me to have some perspective. After all, to die at age 87 after a long, full life isn’t a tragedy.  But I’m still sad, and adding to my sense of loss is the very troubling mystery of why nobody told me she was gone. Should I contact my cousins, offer my condolences and ask why? Or should I just let it go? This is exactly the kind of problem I could always run by Aunt Lucille. We’d talk the whole thing out, and I could always rely on her sound, practical advice. Now I’m on my own.