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Numbness, Tears, and a Smile: Saying Goodbye to My Aunt

by Brandon Williams
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By Brandon C. Williams

Managing Editor, The Post Newspaper

Numbness.

Then tears.

Then a smile and a brief release of heartache.

Welcome to my life, post-Nettie Renchie.

Nettie was my aunt; in actuality, she was more like a second mother to me and my sister. She died on the morning of July 16, exactly three months shy of her 69th birthday. God called her Home peacefully (natural causes). 

I was informed of the news while visiting my dad’s gravesite in Hitchcock. You see, July 16 was his birthday. Now, July 16 is a heart wrenching double-edged sword of his birthday and my aunt’s passing. I am used to experiencing the duality of dates: April 9 is my birthday. It is also the day where Bree Pugh, my then-significant other, passed away mere hours after our last phone call on what was my 50th birthday.

Numbness.

Then tears.

Then a smile and a brief release of heartache.

Losing my aunt was losing the final link to my youth. Nettie was the “Cool Aunt,” the one that let you do things my mother wouldn’t while also serving as a buffer whenever my mother wanted to lower the boom on me. Almost everything I experienced with her was, unbeknownst to me at the time, the foundation of how I learned to become the “Cool Uncle” with my three nephews along with being known as “Brandog” to the teenage daughters of my current significant other, Rebecca Aronson. So much of her almost always unfiltered personality rubbed off not only on me, but on her three children (Keree, Robert and Antaea), ten grandchildren and the host of great grandchildren she was blessed with throughout her life.

Nettie’s last few years were bittersweet. When my sister — my mother, Brenda Renchie — passed away in March of 2018, a huge part of her was taken away. They were almost inseparable, always there for each other while also bickering in the loving manner an older sibling would do to the younger one. Despite the unbearable loss, she picked up the mantle of becoming the matriarch of our family.

Watching my oldest nephew, Kevin Sanders, get married on September 1, 2018 gave Nettie a much-needed jolt of positivity. She and I drove up to Fort Worth that weekend, and through it all, the smile, the jovial personality and being the extension to my mother energized her in a manner that she would continue to carry to her last day on this big blue marble. Nothing brought her joy more than seeing all of us succeed. She was front and center for La Marque football games and the graduations of my two other nephews, Kobe and Keanan Gatson, from LMHS in 2019 and 2021, respectively. 

And, oh, how much she doted on Kobe and Kyler, the two newest additions to our family. The twin girls were born on December 6 of last year, and any chance Nettie could get with them was a vivid reminder of how she was with us in our youth. Just holding them took years off of her and to think of her interacting with them…

Numbness.

Then tears.

Then a smile and a brief release of heartache.

Nettie was all about family, and the last few years of her insistence of being together whenever possible rubbed off on me. For much of my adult life, I tended to shy away from family events. Being a writer, coupled with the fact most events happened on weekends, were the perfect excuse for me to either not show up or make a brief cameo for appearances sake. In time, though — especially the past five years — helped make me understand the importance of surrounding yourself with the ones you love most. She embraced both Leslie, my longtime best friend, and Rebecca and her daughters, Maddie and Morgan. “You’re part of this family, damnit,” was one of the many ways she would lovingly break the ice to anyone who showed up.

Family is why I’ve said “no” to several offers over the past year or so. Being near my inner circle is paramount to my peace and happiness, and to the few people close to me, they understand completely how hard I have struggled to find a sense of balance in my life. Nettie, along with my sister, Keishia Gatson, and her husband, Otis Gatson, have contributed mightility toward achieving a peak I never envisioned reaching.

We will say goodbye to Nettie on Saturday morning. I know she wouldn’t want us in tears; rather, she would want us to celebrate the good times we have shared with her while also working on building an even stronger bond between us all. 

In my weaker moments, I find peace in thinking about how Nettie is now bickering with her sister. I close my eyes and imagine that my mom was the very first person to welcome her to Heaven.

I also know it probably didn’t take long for them to start bickering. Be warned, St. Peter. They can go for hours on end.

Numbness.

Then tears.

Then a smile and a brief release of heartache.

Godspeed, Aunt Nettie. I know you’ll have a plate of homemade enchiladas waiting on me when my time comes.

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