My dear aunt, MaryAnn O'Shinksi Goodwin, was a remarkably beautiful soul who was lost too soon to a two-year battle against pulmonary fibrosis. Her life's journey came to a sudden end this past winter, during which, her condition was drastically worsened when she fell ill to the flu. In her sixty-four years on Earth, she dedicated her life to being a devoted and loving wife, a selfless mother, a proud grandmother, a most genuine friend, and so much more. She brought joy to every life she touched; her unmistakable laugh and unforgettable smile are forever ingrained in my memory. To say the least, MaryAnn was a beautiful ray of eternal light, an angel on earth, and pure sunshine in human form. It has been and remains a true honor and utmost privilege to call her my aunt.
Although MaryAnn was born a single child, by the end of her beautiful life, she was a beloved member of a very large family. Between the family she gained through her marriage to her husband, Jim, and the one they created together, MaryAnn was a beloved sister-in-law of six, an aunt of ten, a great-aunt of five, a mother of four, and a grandmother of seven. Despite being part of such a big family, she always took the time to make everyone else in it know that she loved and cared about them each individually. Although I was only one of her ten nieces and nephews, her joyful smile could be seen in the audience at many of my dance performances, just as her unmistakable voice could be heard cheering me on at my high school graduation. In addition to everything else, no matter how long it had been since we had last seen each other, MaryAnn was always interested in staying up-to-date with everything I had going on in my life.
In this day and age, a widely popular way of staying connected with others is through social media, more specifically, in MaryAnn's case, through Facebook. It seems as though many people use Facebook as a platform for political debate, as their personal diaries, or rarely, if at all. MaryAnn was an avid Facebook user, but for all the right reasons. When prompted to write something about herself for her profile description, one of the things she wrote was, "I thoroughly enjoy my family, immediate and extended. They are all quite a blessing and help me keep things in perspective." At all of her family gatherings and even just in her day-to-day life, she loved to take and share photos of, and with, all of the people whom she felt she was blessed to know and love. On her profile, you will find over one-hundred and fifty photo albums, the majority of which capture quality time spent with her family, which she loved so dearly.
Not only was MaryAnn one of the most selfless, caring, and family-oriented people I've ever met, but she was also one of the funniest. One of her favorite quotes was by Jack in 30 Rock when he said, "You know what family means to me, Lemon? Resentment, guilt, anger, Easter egg hunts that turn into knife fights," as well as one that goes, "A lot of people said it would be a cold day in hell before Auburn played in a national championship. Well, it was seventeen degrees in Tuscaloosa today." Her wit was unmatched, for I cannot recall a single time she was ever unable to crack a joke to help lighten the mood if needed. As her friend, Mary Lynn, wrote on her profile after receiving news of her passing, "MaryAnn could make a gray cloud smile and laugh out loud."
Throughout all the time I have spent reflecting on the devastating loss and beautiful life of my aunt, MaryAnn, I have learned as follows: don't take things too seriously, appreciate the little things, take lots of photos, it's alright to ask for help, stay humble, be a kind person, love your neighbor, show gratitude, be mindful that every day is a blessing, and stay strong.
Since MaryAnn's passing, not a single day has gone by in which I haven't missed having her here; seeing her comical and wholesome Facebook posts, knowing her contagious laugh and heartfelt words of encouragement are just a phone call away, or expecting that her welcoming smile and warm embrace will be the first thing I receive when I walk through the door at our next family gathering. Although MaryAnn has left this world, she did so leaving behind four children, who are my cousins, all of whom encompass her vibrant, eccentric, and warm personality so fully that her spirit truly does live on − and for that, I am ever grateful.
Below you will find some additional remarks about MaryAnn, written by her friends and family on Facebook after her passing.
*Quotes may have been edited for clarity and/or length.
"Her laugh was contagious, her stories were captivating, and our hearts are broken." - Caroline Faith Taylor
"Sweet woman - a Steel Magnolia - beautiful and strong." - Greg Blackwell
"MaryAnn was a beautiful ray of eternal light." - Karen Virginia Nesbitt
"MaryAnn was always smiling and humble, even when everyone knew she was the best." - Carole Adams
"She had a heart of gold!"- Suzy Wright Brown
"Her wit brought joy to all." - Amy Taylor
"You made the room light up with your smile, your love, your cutting wit and the way you celebrated life." - Jim Venker
"She loved her family dearly and loved every moment with them. Her family was her life." - Lois Miller
"She could make a gray cloud smile and laugh out loud." - Mary Lynn Housand Wright
"MaryAnn was a salt-of-the-earth good person, whose friendship I have always treasured." - Mary Martin Venker
"MaryAnn was a genuinely caring soul with a contagious smile and laugh." - Susan Lott Beaumont
"She was a living smile, the embodiment of warmth and friendship." - Robin Wyatt
"Your life lives on through Jim, your children, and grandchildren, each one of whom carries a part of you and they are richer for it." - Jim Venker
"MaryAnn was always a sweet person with an amazing smile that showed her beautiful personality." - Reggie Reg
"MaryAnn is one of the sweetest, kindest and most genuine friends I've ever known." - April Tippins
"She was sunshine in human form. A true angel." - David Gantt