YoungAuntVioletI don’t often post personal stuff but this woman has influence my life greatly.  I hope this honors my Aunt Violet, her family, and her memory.   For those of us she leaves behind…The show must go on.

Since the first time my mother shared the awful news, I have known that this day would come, but who would have thought it would be 16 years later?!  Advanced Breast Cancer.  My dear Aunt Violet had advanced breast cancer, and she survived it for 16 years!  Aunt Violet survived in ways that most can’t even imagine.  She has been through numerous treatments and her doctors have been amazed at her survival.  She defied the odds over and over with her indomitable spirit.  She is the most disciplined person that I can recall knowing in all of my life.

Aunt Violet has been a wife, mother, grandmother and the most passionate dance teacher I have ever known—she’s been teaching since she was 15 years old.  She taught ME to dance.  But the time has come for the “Grand Finale” of her lifetime and like those watching a great performer, none of us have wanted her life come to an end.  She is an inspiration.

She taught everyone to dance…I don’t know how many people Aunt Violet has taught dance, but I know that people all over South Louisiana—young and old—have learned the love of dance from this woman in the last 60 plus years.  After her family, dance has been her deep, abiding passion. Her love of family and her love of dance have kept her these years.  She never stopped teaching dance after her diagnosis—she taught right up to her death.  She never felt sorry for herself or complained. She insisted on keeping her illness private and continued teaching adults tap, ballroom, Cajun, Zydeco and line dancing.  She stayed active in her community pouring herself into others, even training contestants for local “Dancing with the Stars” events.

I haven’t known my Aunt Violet too well.  I have lived a state away for 20 years.  Looking back, I regret not being more purposeful in maintaining our relationship.  I just never figured out how to build a relationship with such a strong and determined woman who was fiercely private about her struggles.  In hindsight, I believe I allowed the physical distance and my timidity to get the best of me.

Aunt Violet will always have a huge place in my heart—I am sure this is true for many she knew.  I have often thought of her through the years as I reflect on how I came to be the person that I am.  Her investment in me and my twin sister has influenced our lives and careers so fundamentally that I can’t extricate her as an important catalyst to who I am today and my passion for what I do.

You see, she taught us dance from the time we were 4 until we were 12.  Later, we were taught by a former student of hers, Ms. Kim, a wonderful dancer she had also inspired.  Aunt Violet taught both my sister and I, her nieces, at no charge to our mother.  All she asked was that my mother make sure we show up and that we give her the same commitment and effort that she gave to us.  She inspired the love of dance and the art of movement in us.  She taught us discipline through ballet, strength through acrobatics, and joy through jazz and tap.  She never gave us special treatment and she was honest when we needed correction or more discipline.

My first awareness of the importance of nutrition came through her.  At puberty when our diets had gotten out of control with sugar (sodas and sweets), she was honest with my mom and with my sister and I.  We needed to cut out sodas and extra sugar or we would become too heavy to continue our acrobatic performance.  We took it to heart and it was a turning point for me that became a catalyst to my choice of a career as a dietitian.

Again, when I was 18, another student of Aunt Violet, my cousin Debbie–also inspired to movement and dance—would train my sister and I to teach aerobic dance and solidify my passion for movement in fitness.  Movement and nutrition have become my life’s work.

Years later as I returned to dance as a hobby, I found joy in teaching and inspiring others to dance.  I have taught fitness and dance as a second profession for most of my life.  Today, I teach Pilates and ballet barre fitness as part of my work as a Dietitian and Wellness Educator, alongside my twin sister who is an educator and comprehensively trained Pilates instructor with a passion for movement.  Movement is fundamental to the healthy lifestyle I teach and encourage in others.  Mine, and my sister’s love for movement is the evolution of Aunt Violet’s influence on us.  We are blessed beyond measure to have had her as our aunt and even more as our dance teacher.  She spent her life investing every ounce of herself into the lives of dance students young and old, sewing into their lives the seeds for a life well lived, full of joy and dancing!

Thank you, Aunt Violet.  May you Rest in Peace.