Marlene Vis, my aunt, passed away this past Saturday, aged 63, loosing a prolonged battle with cancer. I know it’s trite to say that cancer patients “fight” their disease, but if anyone had, she did. Sent to hospice twice, she beat the odds to live more than a year longer than the most optimistic projections. She was–is–one of the strongest people I’ve ever met.
Marlene is survived by her mother, her husband, her two children, four grandchildren, and hard-to-count numbers of nieces, nephews, great-level relations, and friends. To say she had a wide-reaching impact on the community would be an understatement; I think a large swath of Byron Center shut down for her funeral.
Of my relations, Marlene was special. She was friends with my mother for more than five decades. My cousins were near the age of me and my brother and more than friends for years. In the small area in which we grew up, they were secondary family in significant ways.
My fondest memory of her is a Tiger’s baseball game in the post-’84 seasons. The extended family (dozens of us) would venture all the way across the state to DEEtroit to see a Tigers game. It was an event of epic proportions for us in the late 80’s. Marlene and I sat next to each other (I was the Cute Nephew), but had Obstructed Seating. In Tiger’s Stadium, that meant we had a big-ass kind-of-painted-blue steal beam blocking out a majority of the field.
But not the pitcher’s mound. Oh no, that we could see just fine. And so we shouted at every pitch, howled at every K, and taunted every Ball. And, god help him, when Willie Hernandez (aka Whiplash Willie) strode to the mound, he must have heard every invective hurled at him from our two seats.
That memory is nearly 30 years old today. It’s my most precious memory of her and one I choose to hold onto. I know that people change and that the aunt I lost this week is not the same person who shouted at a relief pitcher at Trumbell and Michigan. But that’s the person I miss most; the infectious laugh, the force of nature who dared you to enjoy yourself.
I hope you’ve found peace and freedom from your pain, Aunt Marlene. Few have earned it more than you. We already miss you.