KAW – A Grateful Heart

September 10, 2020 4 By Mirm
Katherine, Janet, Nancy

My mom has 2 sisters – one older and one younger. Yesterday (9/9/20) Katherine, the younger one, passed away in Rhode Island at the age of 81. She was a mom to my 3 beautiful cousins, a grandmother to John and Eva, a friend, an army nurse, a cancer survivor, a therapist, a shop owner, a world traveler, a button collector, a macrobiotic cook and more; but to me she was my Aunt Kitty.

Some extended families are close. We are blessed to be one of those families. In spite of always living on opposite sides of the country, we spent time together on the phone and in person, not just when we were kids, but all the days of adulthood too! In recent years we played Words with Friends and regularly had several games going at once. In spite of how smart my aunt was, she cheated. I am sure of it! There are words she played that NOBODY knows what they mean and how are they even in the Words with Friends dictionary?! It didn’t matter – I loved playing with her and trying to beat her, which was only on occasion!!

One time while the Wheelers were on a trip to California to visit us, we decided to drive down to Tijuana, Mexico. Aunt Kitty wanted to get some paper flowers like my mom had (we never found them, but that is a side note!) By “we”, I am referring to Aunt Kitty and 14 year old me (The oldest of the Wheeler grandkids), my 3 siblings and my 3 cousins. Aunt Kitty drove my parents’ station wagon and on the way home, on I-5 somewhere in San Diego area, we had a flat tire in the fast lane. So Katherine and I got out and went around the back to get the spare tire and tire jack. I was so convinced that I knew how to change a tire because of an episode of I Love Lucy, in which she tries to change one, without succeeding, of course. Katherine had not ever changed a tire either, so we started in – nevermind reading directions (which Jennifer and others in the car were doing and trying to get us to listen) and nevermind that we were on the shoulder of the fast lane of the freeway with 6 young kids all wanting to “participate”. Calm and encouraging, my aunt trusted me with a task I was really not able to complete, although Jennifer and Martha probably would have done it in Indy 500 pitstop speed. Eventually a kind, yet nonplussed highway patrol car pulled up and asked us all to get back in the car while He changed the tire for us. The point is that, besides being a lifelong humorous memory, I was valued, my opinion trusted and I felt respected by an adult whose view of me was extremely important.

Katherine is one of the most generous people I have ever known. She never withheld her time, her knowledge, her home, her laughter, or her love but instead shared gratefully. When I think of the practice of kindness I immediately think of Aunt Kitty. I learned to be grateful and think the best of others simply by watching her. She always saw the best in people and taught me, by example, how to put a positive spin on situations.

Aunt Kit taught me about healing, crystals and herbs. Her own health crisis led her on a journey around the world to include methods beyond the traditional medical field and she shared what she learned with others. Her store in Wickford, RI was named The Grateful Heart. It was the oldest building in the village and her tagline was “an old house welcomes the new age”. But the name of the store was just another reflection of Katherine Ann Wheeler*. She had a grateful heart and lived with thanksgiving and happiness. I will miss her all the rest of my days.

I love you Aunt Kitty!

With a grateful heart,


Me and Aunt Kitty

*Like me, Kitty never had to change her monogram. Additionally, she never had to change her name on her social security card because she married someone with the same last name! Dr. John P. Wheeler.