Monday, August 18, 2008

don't know what to say.

So last night my folks called me. (They had been out of town at a reunion for my dad's high school class).

My mom said: "there's some sad news."

Oh Lord no.

My aunt - the one I referred to in an earlier post, the one who had been in the hospital but had seemed to be doing better, has died.

She was my mom's sister. My mom's last surviving sibling. (Oddly, it was the oldest child - my aunt, who was nearly 20 years older than my mom, and the youngest - my mom - who were "left standing" for many years after the deaths of the others).

My mom seems to be holding it together OK. Perhaps you reach a point in life where losses come less hard, because you've experienced enough loss? I don't know.

On the one hand, the death isn't unexpected - my aunt was nearly 90, she had been in poor health for a while (she's had treatment for congestive heart failure for a number of years, plus she had colon cancer five or so years ago, plus she has battled psoriasis most of her adult life, plus some other stuff). I guess her body just wore out.

And I have to say I'm somewhat comforted by a few facts - one of them being that most of her children (and I guess some of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren) were at her side; she didn't die alone. And her daughter told my mom it was a peaceful death; she wasn't in pain at the end, she wasn't fighting to breathe or anything like that.

And my cousin - the same daughter - thanked my mom for all the calls she made. My mom called my aunt twice a week (sometimes more frequently) for years - I think she started doing it back in 1989 after my grandmother passed away, because my aunt had been a major caretaker for my grandmother, and I think my mom was concerned about my aunt feeling a little alone and isolated. My cousin told my mother that those calls meant a lot to my aunt, that it was something she looked forward to (especially when she was in the nursing home).

I talked to her some - not often - and I hadn't seen her for a few years.

But I am comforted by knowing the last thing I ever said to her was "I love you." My aunt had the habit of, instead of saying "goodbye" at the end of a phone conversation (either when you were going to hang up or when you were going to pass the phone on to the next family member) of closing the conversation with "I love you." And the expected response was "I love you." So those are the last words I ever said to her, and I'm glad that they were that.

I'm doing OK this morning. Last night, not so much. If I'm going to have a hard time of it emotionally, it tends to be at night - when it's quiet and I'm alone and I don't have things to occupy my mind or my time. (When I get in bed it's worst. It took me a very long time to fall asleep last night because I got to thinking about my aunt).

One thing I thought about...I hope she found out that those people who told her what they believed about suicides and the afterlife were wrong. One of my aunt's sons took his life several years ago, and even though he had been a person of faith, some of the people around my aunt apparently told her that people who committed suicide didn't get in to Heaven. And my aunt was a woman of deep faith, and that troubled her a lot. I remember her asking my mom and dad what they thought about it, and her talking it over with the pastor of her church. And while all of them did their best to reassure her, I think she was troubled by it.

So one of the things that popped into my head: I hope she met Tom again and found out that he was OK after all.

And I kept hearing her voice in my head...she had a very distinctive voice, I would best describe it as being something like Julia Child's but without the New Englandy accent. And she had a distinctive laugh - it started out hearty and kind of ended in a giggle, and it was always gratifying to tell her something funny and to hear her laugh.

She was a very sweet person. I'm sad I didn't get a chance to see her recently. And I'm kind of sad I won't be able to get to the funeral (it's not been planned yet but it's over 1000 miles away from me, and it's in a remote area that's not served by an airport or train station - I'd have to fly into an airport a state or two away, and then rent a car or take the bus and it would take a day to a day and a half for me to get there. And at the start of the semester - I just can't afford that.

My mom said she knew my aunt would understand, and I think she's right. My aunt was one of those people who talked about how "brave" I was to go off so far away from everyone and everything I knew to make my way in the world. And while there are good things about having done that, there are also bad things - a very big one being that you can't get to the people you love fast enough sometimes).

Rest in peace, Auntie. I hope you're seeing your mom, and your son Tom, and your brothers and sisters who went before you, and each of the husbands that you lost too soon....


nightfly said...

I'm sorry to hear of your loss, Ricki. It must be doubly sad to be unable to attend the funeral. Prayers for you and yours.

Kate P said...

Sorry to hear about your aunt, Ricki, and may she rest in peace now. You've given her a good send-off in spirit.

red fish said...

I'm sorry, Ricki. No matter how old loved ones are or how expected their deaths are, it is still hard.

Fantastic way to end phone conversations! What a great way to leave each relationship.

I love you Ricki!

tracey said...

my condolences, ricki.

Ken S, Fifth String on the Banjo of Life said...

Mine too, Ricki.