Sit­ting in the hos­pi­tal after my aunt’s surgery for an aneurism, my cousin looked at me and said, “You were always her favorite.”  I looked up at him and said, “That’s OK, because she was always my favorite too.”  The next day our beloved Aunt Hick­ie made her tran­si­tion.

There are some pass­ings that we nev­er want to have in our life.  Los­ing Aunt Hick­ie was one of those for me.  

Aunt Hick­ie was no ordi­nary aunt.   She was extra­or­di­nary in that she spent focused and atten­tive time with all sev­en of her nieces and nephews. 

When I was young, Aunt Hick­ie was big­ger than life.  She lived by her­self in Montevallo,Alabama where she was a pro­fes­sor in the Phys­i­cal Edu­ca­tion and Recre­ation depart­ment at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mon­te­val­lo.  She was the only work­ing woman that I real­ly knew, so she nat­u­ral­ly became a pro­fes­sion­al men­tor for me.  She taught me that learn­ing is a life­long process, and that liv­ing a rich and reward­ing life was about giv­ing back to one’s pro­fes­sion, com­mu­ni­ty, and fam­i­ly.

She taught me the art of a good sto­ry. She spoke slow­ly in a tra­di­tion­al South Geor­gia dialect, and every word was care­ful­ly spo­ken and craft­ed.  The sto­ries were long, and always kept us on the edge of our seats. 

Aunt Hick­ie taught me to fish and she nur­tured a deep appre­ci­a­tion in me for nature and the out­doors.  We spent many sum­mers togeth­er, camp­ing and hunt­ing for rubies in the mines of North Car­oli­na.   She taught me to walk gen­tly on the earth, to leave no trace, and to respect the plant and ani­mal world just as I respect­ed human life. 

Aunt Hick­ie nev­er earned mon­ey out­side of her pro­fes­sor­ship at the uni­ver­si­ty.  And she died a wealthy woman.  She made her mon­ey the way most wealthy peo­ple do…by sav­ing a small amount of mon­ey over a long peri­od of time.  She taught me to always save a lit­tle bit of what I earn today for tomor­row.  She mod­eled this in a pow­er­ful way by sav­ing 50% of her take home pay for years to accu­mu­late the down pay­ment to build her own home.  When I was 18, she gave me my first stock invest­ment.   Her lessons worked, and I began adding to the invest­ment, a lit­tle at a time, with every pay­check.

Aunt Hick­ie was a good Girl Scout and true to the scout mot­to, be pre­pared.  She had her will pre­pared by a local attor­ney years before her pass­ing, and because I was a named co-executrix, she gave me a copy and walked me through it.  I was uncom­fort­able sit­ting there with her, talk­ing about a time I just could not bear to think about.  But when the time came, I was very glad that she had cho­sen to make her wish­es clear.

On Sun­day Sep­tem­ber 12 I attend­ed a grave­side ser­vice and after­ward, a hand­ful of close friends gath­ered at her lake house for a final good­bye.  She asked that we meet and tell fun­ny sto­ries about our times with her.  In her hon­or, here is mine:

When I was 8, Aunt Hick­ie decid­ed that I need­ed a dog.  A friend agreed to give her a pure bred Welsh ter­ri­er.  She called to tell me she was bring­ing it on her next vis­it.  She remarked about what a fine dog it was and sug­gest­ed I pick out a name for her.  For no par­tic­u­lar rea­son oth­er than my Moth­er was a diehard south­ern­er, I arrived at the name Dix­ie.  It was a warm spring day when Aunt Hick­ie arrived with her dog, Pris­sy, whom I adored, and my new dog,Dixie.  I was sure Pris­sy was the smartest dog on Earth. She would sit, stay, roll over, play dead, and do a num­ber of oth­er tricks on com­mand.  It was like she could under­stand the entire Eng­lish lan­guage! Dix­ie by con­trast was young and ram­bunc­tious, and showed lit­tle inter­est in pay­ing atten­tion or being obe­di­ent. 

A few hours after my Aunt’s arrival, it was time to depart for my dance class.  As I was get­ting in the car, Aunt Hick­ie said, “Mack­ey, don’t you want to take your dog and show her off to your friends?”  Hear­ing a great sug­ges­tion, I imme­di­ate­ly walked over and picked up Pris­sy and put her in the car with me.  Aunt Hick­ie was shocked and said, “Mack­ey!  I brought you this fine, pure bred dog all the way from Alaba­ma!   Aren’t you going to show her off?”  “But Aunt Hick­ie,” I replied, “Dix­ie can’t do any­thing, and Pris­sy is the smartest dog on earth.  I want to impress my friends!” 

Thank good­ness she loved me any­way.

You too can learn from Aunt Hickie’s mon­ey wis­dom.  Here are some of my favorites:

  • Save a lit­tle from each pay­check.
  • As soon as you pay off the loan on your car, take that cash flow and save it for a down pay­ment on the next one.
  • Invest for the long term. Mar­kets are volatile, be at peace with this fact and stick to your sav­ing and invest­ing plan.
  • Don’t spend mon­ey on things that are not real­ly impor­tant to you.  If you fol­low this rule, you will have mon­ey for the things that are.  Know the dif­fer­ence.
  • Patience is a virtue in pur­chas­ing.  Save for what you want, and then buy qual­i­ty.  Take care of your things so they last.
  • Nev­er charge more on your cred­it card than you can pay off at the end of the month.
  • Keep your will up to date.
  • Leave a lega­cy.  Find a cause that is mean­ing­ful for you, set up a char­i­ta­ble giv­ing fund and ask your friends to donate too.

Here’s to you, Aunt Hick­ie. You will always live in my heart.