This past winter, I paid a visit to my elderly aunt–my late father’s younger sister–with whom I am very close. I have learned some of my greatest life lessons from her. Shirley lives in a stately home on a tree-lined street in Brookline, Massachusetts, where the phone never stops ringing. She is a mother of four, grandmother of sixteen, great-grandmother of forty-five and counting. Recently widowed, she had just put her home on the market when, during a visit to a daughter in Chicago, a pipe burst, flooding several floors full of antiques and artwork. A significant part of that elegant home had been —turned, in her words, into “a barn.” So she had just begun the process, arduous for anyone much less an octogenarian, of filing insurance claims and rebuilding her home.
“Come in, darling!” She swept me into what had once been her living room. “It’s a mess, isn’t it? But look how lucky we were. None of Uncle Moe’s books were damaged.”
I looked at her. Lucky? This wouldn’t have been my definition of lucky.
“I was just writing a letter to the insurance company,” she went on to say.
Now, in my experience, letters to insurance companies tend to be requests, or complaints. But no.
“I wanted to let the president of the company know how wonderful his people have been to me.”
I watched my aunt, beautiful, beaming, lit from within. All her life she has sought light. She has looked for only the good in others, and they, in turn, have become all the better for it. As have I.
Dani Shapiro is the bestselling author of seven books, including the memoirs Devotion and Slow Motion. www.danishapiro.com