<b>Go heavy on the starch and spread the love</b>

They say it takes a village to raise a child. I agree.

Late Tuesday evening one of the best people in my village passed away.

Although we weren't allowed to talk about it, Aunt Barbara had been sick for quite some time, years really.

When I got word on Monday that things were taking a tragic turn in my aunt's health, shamefully my first thought was I wonder if she knew how much I loved her?

I asked my friends. They said, "yes". I asked my family members. They assured me she did.

But why would I have to ask this? Why, do we wait to tell people in our lives how much they mean to us? I think we're all guilty of this sometimes. We all think we'll do it tomorrow, right?

After work on Tuesday I drove to Bardstown to see my aunt to make sure she knew. I told her. I don't think she heard me necessarily, but at least I had told her. I told her she always cared for me. It was important for me that she know that. I kissed her forehead and left.

Two hours later she passed and I vowed to never wonder if my friends and family know how much they mean to mean.

I'm on a mission.

And so I'm challenging you my readers and I'm challenging you to challenge others this February (which happens to be National Heart Month) to spread love. While we should be spreading the word about strategies for preventing heart disease and encouraging people to live heart healthy lives I think we should should be spreading love and kindness too.

I want my friends and family members to know what makes them so special, so unique and what I love most about them.

It just doesn't make sense to put it in an obituary or to say it at a funeral. Let's bring those emotions to life and I imagine it may take a little forgiveness and it's going to be awkward and uncomfortable.

I've been through more uncomfortable things with less reward. So we can do this.

Thankfully, I spent every summer of my childhood escaping my chaotic Kentucky life with my Aunt Barbara in Northville, Michigan. It was during these summer months at Aunt Barbara's house that I learned priceless life skills and for a month I didn't have a care in the world.

It's no secret that she spoiled me--all my aunts did.

During those summers with Aunt Barbara I learned how to play "Mary Had a Little Lamb" on the piano. Sometimes when she would be in the kitchen, I would sit at the piano, pretending to play something really fancy and I'd fantasize about living with her all the time and she'd teach me to play things much more important than "Mary Had a Little Lamb".

I went to church with Aunt Barbara and Uncle Don. I sat in the backseat of Uncle Don's Cadillac while Aunt Barbara organized her purse making sure she had her lipstick, tissues, mints and a pen. Sometimes I think she might have painted her nails on the way.

Talk radio was always playing in Uncle Don's car. This was a far cry from the loud sounds of The Mamas & The Papas that blasted from the speakers of Aunt Barbara's black Trans Am. In that black sports car I became a fan of "California Dreamin" and "Dedicated To The One I Love".

I would attend vacation Bible school every summer at First United Methodist Church in Northville where I'm certain the foundation of my faith was built.

As much as I learned in vacation Bible school, I learned a lot in my aunt's dining room.

I learned that every so often my aunt would be unavailable for nonsense play with me because for that hour she was devoted to a prayer chain call.

I learned the proper way to set a table. I could never understand why the spoon went on the outside of the knife. Ugh, it still bothers me. Aunt Barbara set the table for every meal, even a bowl of cereal.

We keep our placemats on the table in our home, but Aunt Barbara put them down for every meal and took them up after every meal, cleaned them and put them perfectly in the drawer they were designated for. I loved that she was this particular. I absolutely loved this about her.

I grew to love Reader's Digest and grapefruits for breakfast in that dining room.

Once Aunt Barbara told me that if I didn't wash my ears very well then potatoes would grow in them. For the longest time, I believed this to be a fact. I'm still an advocate for clean ears and probably use a cotton swab too often in my ear.

They spoiled me with trips to see the Detroit Tigers play. During games I would root for Cecil Fielder, Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker. I would grow up with more hockey knowledge than most youth in Kentucky. The Detroit Red Wings were a big deal for Aunt Barbara. Steve Yzerman was the big name and sometimes a dead octopus got thrown out onto the ice rink. As far as that sport goes, I don't remember much else, but they loved it. Everyone wore a jersey and cheered.

I never had a hockey jersey but I do remember a photo of me from when I was about 7 years old in braided pig tails, (Aunt Barbara always fixed my hair) eating a carrot wearing an Isaiah Thomas T-shirt. They taught me to love the Pistons too.

It's funny what we remember.

There were countless trips to the mall, restaurants that seemed intimidating and movie dates that I loved. I'm not sure why Aunt Barbara took up with me like she did, but I'm so thankful she was a part of my village.

Now, I find myself becoming more and more like her. I'm particular and like things a certain way, much like she did. I pretend to be a social butterfly but when the time comes, I'm easily agitated and would prefer to be at home with a book. I enjoy the company of one or two best and I say what's on my mind as did she.

I remember telling her several years back that I thought I was turning into her.

She was a dandy. One who taught me things. One important in my village.

This February, share your love. Don't wait until tomorrow.

Also if you iron your clothes, go heavy on the starch, Aunt Barbara always did.

Angela Turner is a staff writer for The Times-Tribune. She can be reached at aturner@thetimestribune.com.

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