A year ago today I lost my Aunt.
She shouldn’t have died. She wasn’t supposed to die.
She got sick, the doctors fixed her, but for some reason…she just didn’t want to live.
I don’t understand why.
She lived alone. She went to mass every Sunday. She hated learning email and would still send me long, handwritten letters telling me about the weather in Michigan. How the leaves were changing, how she was planning a trip with her friends/cousins. How she wished we could see each other more often.
We sent each other sunflowers a lot. For no good reason. Birthdays and what not, sure…but every so often we just sent each other sunflowers.
I don’t understand why she’s not here.
My Dad thinks in many ways she lived very much like a nun. She had her rosaries and her mass schedule and as far as we know did not date or have any interest in dating.
I’d ask her now.
Before I just let her be her. Now I have so many questions. Mainly because I don’t understand why she’s not here.
The doctors needed her to push herself to recover. She had no interest. She could have recovered with therapy, and will. Or so I am told.
In her last days my other Aunt held the phone to her ear for me. I did all the things someone would do knowing this was the last time they would talk to them. The I love yous. The so many I love yous. But I also told her to get up. To do what the doctor’s said. Why wasn’t she?
I don’t think, by then, she could hear anyone. And my health meant that in the months and weeks prior I couldn’t have traveled to try and get her out of bed.
And so I sit here tonight, with the clock ticking away, thinking about the people in my life that could be gone tomorrow. How I just can’t bear losing anyone else. Yet I know I will.
There are so many things I don’t understand right now. So many moments that are slipping past that will never, ever be given again. And this anniversary just reminds me that an entire year has gone by of those moments. An entire year.
Have I made each moment worth it? Have I given of myself to each person in my life as fully as I can give…so that when their time comes, they want to fight and get out of bed? Or will they want to simply be done with it all, for reasons I can’t begin to understand.
I’m selfish. Horribly selfish. I want them all to fight their hardest for me. Because they want more time with me. One more hug. One more sunflower.
Yet I know, deep down, I can’t make sense or let go even after a year. And yes, I know the old saying and I know I have to let go…but I can’t. It’s not right. It doesn’t make sense. And I am not ready. I didn’t get to say hello enough, let alone goodbye. Goodbye over the phone from 3,000 miles away while she was in a vegetative state does not count.
I bought a new rosary in her honor for this anniversary. I’m not practicing, but she was my confirmation sponsor and gave me almost every rosary I own. I feel like the least I can do is to light a candle and say her prayers. Maybe I will add one to the collection every year. To remind me that life is too short. That people we love deeply can be gone so quickly, and almost without warning.
Even more importantly, to remind me that those I have with me now deserve joy and love and everything the world has to offer so they always want to stay right here. I can even lose my selfishness and understand that here does not need to be with me. So long as here means in this world.
As much as my body aches and as hard as things get, there is no place I would rather be. But maybe it’s because I have seen the other side for myself. It’s cold and lonely and horrible. This side has love and a place where you can always bury your head to cry, or lips that are always there to be kissed. It has laughter. It has warmth.
It means I order extra photos at Christmas time because she would want them, and of course then I would order too many and my husband would roll his eyes and shake his head at the money I wasted. But I had to make sure she got enough. And I did learn over the years to just order hers separate, because making him happy and making myself look smart is never a bad thing.
It means I crave moments with my children, almost creating them as we sing silly songs or point out the wildflowers on the side of the road.
It means I lay my head on my pillow every single night with an I love you and I go to bed with my husband at the same time, even if I get up moments later because I am not tired or feeling well. Because those moments matter too much.
It means I see sunflowers everywhere right now. They are bright and beautiful.
And I want desperately to share them.
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