Guest post: The great good aunt

Today marks the beginning of a series of guest bloggers writing about the good aunt. In the post below, you’ll get to meet an amazing author and friend of mine, Jerel Law. He’s going to tell you about his sister-in-law, who isn’t just a good aunt. She’s a great good aunt.

Jerel is the author of Spirit Fighter, the first in the Jonah Stone: Son of Angels series. For all you good aunts, uncles, moms and dads out there, this is a great read for ages 10 to 14 (but I also think it’s a great read for anyone older, too). Fire Prophet, the second book in the series, is due out this December.

Jerel and his son Christopher at a recent book signing

Just a reminder that the “Thank your good aunt” contest is still going on, and if you win, you could choose to receive Spirit Fighter as your prize. So get those entries in. And now, here’s Jerel:


I’m grateful that Hope asked me to contribute to the Good Aunt series. I’ve had some terrific aunts in my life, and my children have some now. I want to tell you about one in particular, though – my sister-in-law, Dana. I want to share with you what it is that makes her a very, very special aunt. And to understand that, you need to know something about our last couple of years.

My wife, Susan, was always close to her sister. From the first days of our relationship in college, she would tell me stories about how funny, silly and crazy Dana was. Dana was two years older, and in some ways they couldn’t be more different. Dana was funny, loud and the life of the party. Susan was funny too, but a little less extraverted, with a deeply sweet side. Yet, when they were together, they were like best friends.  They were closer than that, actually – they were sisters.  And they loved each other.

Dana lived in Raleigh after college, but an opportunity to move to Hawaii, of all places, popped up, and Dana thought to herself – I’m young, single, and getting bored here – why not? So around 2004, she moved to Honolulu, taking a job with a hospital system. We stayed in touch, but, because of the distance, saw each other a lot less frequently.

In 2008, though, Susan was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a game-changer for our family, and it began three roller-coaster years of treatment, recovery, prayer, hope, and ultimately, disappointment. On January 1, 2011, Susan died, ending her struggle with cancer, walking fully-healed into the gracious arms of Jesus.

We have had some amazing family support over the past several years, and Dana has been right there with us every step of the way. There is one thing above all else that Dana has done to be not just a good, but great, aunt. It’s one gift that every aunt has the ability to give, one that she has given us over and over again. All while living 4000 miles away.

But first, I want to share with you what my kids have to say about Dana. Susan and I had three children together. Bailey is a beautiful 12; Christopher is 10, and brilliant; and Luke is a gregarious 7. I asked them one question: What makes Dana a good aunt? Here’s what they said, in their own words:

“She’s really nice to us ‘cause she takes us on shopping sprees.”
“She always buys us something before she comes to visit us.”
“She likes to do little meetings in our rooms sometimes.”

“She’s funny, like she makes me laugh a lot.”
“She really loves us, because she comes over a lot and she always does really nice stuff for us.  She takes us out when she comes, and we do a lot of fun stuff.”
“I like when she spends one-on-one time with me.”

“She always wants to spend time with us, like, individually.”
“She always helps us with stuff.”
“She likes to do fun things and is never boring.”
“She is just awesome!”

What is that one thing that Dana has given to us, that one gift that all the kids mentioned in one way or another?

Her presence.

I have lost track of how many flights Dana has made from Honolulu to Charlotte over the past four years.  I imagine it is in the neighborhood of between 12 and 15 trips. You see, when she found out Susan was sick, she made a beeline for our house. She was determined to be here for Susan, and no one was going to get in her way. She took off a ton of time from work, made creative arrangements with her boss and spent a fortune on plane tickets. She came to be with Susan during appointments, surgeries and treatments.  And when Susan passed away, she felt she had a responsibility – to be there for the kids and for me, to help us. And God knows, we have needed the help.

Dana has given us the most amazing gift, something only she can give – the gift of her presence with us. There is not much that can take the place of sheer time given. Presents are nice. Shopping sprees are great, as Luke mentioned. But what my children really love is time with Dana. Goofing around, laughing, shopping, cooking dinner, it doesn’t really matter. Just being together.

The Law children with Aunt Dana

Dana has continued to trek from Honolulu to Charlotte, several times a year, to spend a week or so with us. She does the school routine, drives the kids places and makes lunches. She has simply made being with them a priority. In fact, she is coming into town next week. The kids couldn’t be more excited.

She has helped us in more ways than she even knows. I don’t think we’d be in the healthy place we are in now if it wasn’t for her.

What makes a good aunt? I think it’s pretty simple, really. Time. Your presence, invested wisely in the people you love. I am seeing her investment pay off in ways that are meaningful and significant to my family. Things only the sister of my wife can do.

And I know that Susan is very, very proud of, and grateful for, her big sister.

3 thoughts on “Guest post: The great good aunt

  1. Pingback: Thanking your good aunt | The Flourishing Tree

  2. Thank you Jerel for your sweet expressions of love and appreciation to others who have supported you during this difficult time. Please give a BIG hug to Dana from the whole Schoonhagen clan. We love her dearly and thank the Lord for her presence in your children’s lives!

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