Mom sent out an email this evening (with names redacted by me).
Hi Gang, [eldest sister] phoned earlier today, [cousin] had been in touch with her to say that your Aunt [deceased] had passed away yesterday evening. I'm glad that [eldest sister] and I were able to go visit her last summer.
Another thing on my agenda: no gift exchange here, just dinner and games. If you want to give each other something, please get it over with before coming here.
You wonder where the oft morbid humour in my stories comes from. "Merry Christmas family. Oh, and by the way, your late father's sister died."
I was always fond of that particular aunt, having spent more time with her than any of my parents' other siblings. I spent a whole summer with them in Penticton when I was in my early teens - the longest stretch I ever spent away from my nuclear family before I was an adult. I feel like she deserves a bit better than an aside in a note about what gifts not to bring for Christmas, but on the other hand, I wouldn't expect much more that; this is just how my family communicates.
For example, I learned that my eldest brother was getting married when a mutual friend asked me if I had picked out a suit because he'd heard I was going to be an usher. I was helping him with his master's degree at the time (writing some software he was going to use in teaching music theory). The conversation went something like this.
Him: I hear you're going to be an usher at your brother's wedding. Do you have a suit picked out?
Me: My brother's getting married? (pause) Which brother?
Him: Are you serious? Your brother D is getting married. You mean he hasn't told you yet?
Me: No. (another pause) Marrying who?
Him: I don't believe this! I've never met a family that communicates as badly as yours!
Anyway, so apparently my aunt died yesterday. Merry Christmas.