Although sunflowers are pretty (and I enjoy eating their seeds) they are not my favorite flower. However, this morning an enormous bouquet of sunflowers adorns my desk for Only The Good Friday. I’ve placed them there to honor my husband’s favorite aunt, who died one year ago. I’ve told you about Aunt Cleo before; she was my hero.
Her favorite flower was the sunflower, and she decorated her home with a profusion of them. The sunflower is a fitting symbol for Cleo, for they represent warmth and happiness. The color yellow is also a good match for her, for it means optimism, enlightenment, and happiness. That sums up Cleo pretty well.
Cleo battled Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” Perhaps you don’t know anyone who has the disease, which gradually paralyzes the muscles of the body which allow us to move, eat, and breathe (but not the part of the brain that allow us to think, feel, and remember). Usually it develops in people between 40 and 70 years old, and 90% of the people who get it did not “inherit” it. It is not contagious, but it is a disease that strikes randomly. According to Frontline, “It is estimated that 30,000 people in the U.S. have ALS at any given time, with approximately 5,600 new cases diagnosed annually. More than 5,000 people die from the disease each year.” There is no cure … yet.
If Cleo were still here, there would be one soon! Even confined to a wheelchair, she “walked” to raise money for ALS research. She knew it wouldn’t help her, but she hoped it would help somebody. This year, her daughters Kase and Patti walked in her memory.
Obviously Cleo didn’t win the battle with ALS (no one does), but she faced this deadly disease with courage, dignity, and laughter … even when she lost her ability to speak. Those would be reasons enough to admire Aunt Cleo, but there was more.
Cleo had the ability to make everyone feel special. She accepted people, no matter their foibles, and welcomed them into her heart. Her heart was doggone big. What a wonderful world it would be if there were more “Aunt Cleos” out there!
I’m betting that you have a hero or two. Who has touched your life, and taught you how to live it fully?