sunlight bursting through clouds

Hello Dolly, ……well, hello, Dolly
It’s so nice to have you back where you belong

That old Louis Armstrong tune played over the funeral home speakers as a crowd of family members giggled through their sniffles, watching photos of my Granny’s sister scroll by on giant TV screens. Great Aunt Marion, who had a nickname for everyone (mine was “Almost,” because I was *almost* born on her birthday), who insisted that we all call her “Auntie Marion Dear” (and we all happily obliged), and who had an infectious smile.

Joy.

In every single photo that flashed across those screens, her constant joy was apparent in her smile. It wasn’t a white-washed version of her life; it was her. Everyone wanted to be around her. I can remember gravitating toward her larger-than-life personality at a huge family reunion at the age of 7. I followed her all over that day, and she invited me to spend a week with her at her home in Galesburg that summer. A woman who I had only gotten to know for a few hours, and I couldn’t wait to spend a whole week with her!

She took me to Lake Storey and watched me climb the stairs and go down the waterslide for hours. She took me to the Salvation Army store and we hunted for treasures. She pulled down her fancy tea and we drank out of our glass teacups from the Salvation Army store every night. When I woke up with a cold (probably from going up and down the waterslide for hours), she brought me a stack of books and whatever foods I asked for. She slept in uncomfortable twin beds in her hot attic with me every night, letting me keep her up way later than she probably would have liked to be up, because she knew I would not want to sleep alone. She made me do dishes once that week, because it was good for me, but didn’t insist that I do them after every meal. And when I called out all of her good cards over her shoulder at Bridge night, she just laughed it off, pulled me into her lap, and taught me the strategy of the game.

Auntie Marion Dear had a gift. The gift of attunement. She knew exactly where a person was. She had the ability to be in their headspace, to come alongside of them, to draw them in and be exactly what they needed in that moment. I am so grateful for the example she set for me and the weeks we spent together over the summers.

Auntie Marion Dear would have made a great doula.

You’re lookin’ swell, Dolly…….I can tell, Dolly
You’re still glowin’…you’re still crowin’…you’re still goin’ strong

Authored by: Kate Herzel

Interested in becoming an attuned doula? Find a local training on the ProDoula website.

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About Kate Herzel

Kate Herzel is the co-owner of Heartland Doulas alongside Stacy Ash, and together with their combined 20 years of experience and 7 doulas, they help people have really amazing birth and postpartum experiences. In her spare time, Kate enjoys cooking with her kids, brewing beer with her husband, and entertaining for her friends.