I pulled into the parking lot knowing that I would regret this visit, but I had promised my mom that I would go see her sister. Aunt Emily was a unique woman, who had survived California earthquakes and fires, the beating death of her husband, and the loss of all her earthly possessions. None of these had managed to affect her joy in life. She once said to me ‘life is a banquet and I frequently visit the table’. I admired her in so many ways although I had only really gotten to know her the last fifteen years of her life. She had moved to California early in her life and returned home only after she was alone and nearly penniless. She came from a family of eleven children. My mom said they were all too busy just surviving to have time to complain about anything. I never heard Emily complain. I wondered how I could be more like her, able to turn any bad situation into a good memory or vital lesson. I was grateful that I was able to perform one last service for her, grateful that my job allowed me this freedom, grateful that I had an Auntie Em. I walked into the hospital room where my Auntie Em lived, if you wanted to call it that. She just existed there, but she did have a smile on her face. She looked angelic. I nodded to the hospice nurse, as I reached for her hand. She was still warm to the touch. Death had no sting upon her. She retained her appearance, her gentle presence, and her joy. "I love you Auntie Em. Thank you," I whispered as I said goodbye. I was wrong, I would never regret that visit.
Neile Parisi is the author of Today My Name Is Billie based upon an incident in her life as an eighth grade teacher. Neile taught school for eighteen glorious years in public schools. She experienced both Joy and Tragedy in her classroom, but continually loved her students. Following her teaching career she became a Registered Sanitarian. Having a Masters Degree in Health Education, she was able to use her teaching skills to help educate workers in the restaurant world, teaching proper food handling skills, provide knowledge about radon, asbestos, and lead poisoning to home owners, investigate food poisoning, test beach water and pools for bacteria levels, inspect restaurants, day cares, schools and hospitals, and at times even trapping rats and rodents. Currently she is a Realtor, who by the way Won Second Place in The Woman’s Arm Wrestling competition in Las Vegas, and promises she won’t let anyone “Twist Your Arm”. She is also a stand up comic on the weekends drawing from her varied background of occupations. Today My Name is Billie is her first novel.
Parisi urges you to look into The Hole in the Wall Gang Fund, Inc. an organization dedicated to providing “a different kind of healing” to seriously ill children and their families throughout the Northeast, free of charge. It’s a community that celebrates the fun, friendship and spirit of childhood, where every kid can “raise a little hell.” Visit www.holeinthewallgang.org.