Kathleen Thon Johnson, February 2, 1947-March 19, 2011

My family suffered a terrible loss yesterday. My 64-year-old aunt passed away unexpectedly. Other than what she thought was the flu, she wasn’t sick. There was no warning, no cancer, no non-fatal-wake-up call. Her children, her husband of 41 years, and the rest of our family are devastated.

She is already deeply missed.

Aunt Kathy was one of the most–if not the most–caring and generous people I have ever known. Her greatest joy was her family. She adored her husband–my Uncle David, her two boys, and her young granddaughters. She tirelessly cared for them, as well as the rest of our family, her coworkers, and countless pets, through the years. She was always willing to work extra hours to help out a coworker, and always willing to do whatever she could to make the lives of others easier.

Unfortunately, she didn’t take such good care of herself.

Like so many women, Aunt Kathy put her own health and well-being behind that of her family. She was conscious of Uncle David’s diet and medication (he has Type 2 diabetes), but not so much her own. She rarely took sick days or went to the doctor. She recognized the benefits of healthy eating and exercise, but didn’t make it a priority for herself.

She regularly fueled herself with coffee and cigarettes.

Like so many women, she intellectually knew that taking care of herself was important, but was unable to set aside the time and energy for it. Instead, she dedicated all of her time and energy to others.

So often we hear that taking care of ourselves improves our lives as well as the lives of our loved ones. Taking care of ourselves allows us to share our best selves with those we love. And most of us understand that. We get it. Yet we still resist making our own health and well-being a priority.

Yesterday morning, Uncle David woke up to find Aunt Kathy lying dead in the hallway. Apparently she had gotten up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, but didn’t make it. We won’t know what killed her until the autopsy is complete, but we suspect heart failure or a blood clot.

At any rate, she’s gone. And Uncle David and her boys are lost. The quality of their lives will never be the same. They are without their beloved wife and mother. The world has lost an incredible human being.

There’s no way to know whether taking care of herself would have given Aunt Kathy extra time. Even the healthiest among us can become ill or be injured or even killed in an accident.

But taking better care of herself certainly would’ve improved her odds.

Life is so very precious. Be well.