When I first was introduced to Bradley’s family — at this point, the new girlfriend — it quickly became apparent to me who was going to be the hardest to impress. Aunty Jane, with her discerning gaze, made me feel welcome, just like the rest of the family, but I could sense she was making sure I was worthy of her “other son.” She loved Bradley so, and I could feel it in every moment I spent with her. Still, she would go out of her way to connect with me, sharing how she had a Persian roommate, finding common ground with that half of me. And, as time went on, and I became part of the family, I got to witness, again and again, her generosity of spirit. There was never a time that we visited Maryland, that Aunty Jane didn’t have one of her famous apple cakes waiting for Bradley. She even shipped them across country to her biggest fan. Bradley told me point blank that I shouldn’t even bother getting the recipe because no one could hold a candle to his aunty’s rendition. I wouldn’t dream of attempting it.

By and by, more of Aunty Jane’s love permeated our lives. I would place an order for some of her hand-made soaps or lotions, and a bundle three times larger than what I’d ordered would arrive. Included in these packages would be thoughtful gifts, like journals to write in, or a wall plaque with a loving message about family. Multiple times a day over the last year or two, my phone would chime, and at just the right moment — when I was feeling frustrated about work, or fretting over something insignificant — I’d read a scripture from Aunty Jane on the family chat, and it would ease my troubles or give me a new perspective. Watching her and Bradley’s mother — now, my mother, too — together, laughing, cooking, talking — would make me wish that my sisters and I lived close by. Their connection and friendship was something to marvel at, to try to emulate. In the years that I was privileged to know Aunty Jane, she found so many meaningful ways to touch my life. I feel honored to have spent the time that I did with her, and fortunate to have experienced her light. I know she will forever shine on, guiding the family, living in our hearts, and through memories not soon forgotten.