Sunday, June 11th, 2017
Disclaimer: This is my point of view of the days leading up to my aunt's death. In this post and in future posts, I am leaving out many of the reactions, experiences and thoughts of my family members that were there in the hospital with us. I believe that their point of view is there's alone to share and I want to respect their privacy when it comes to reliving these moments - whether publicly or privately.
One year ago on this day my aunt passed away. This is the final post of the days leading up to her death.
I barely got a few hours of sleep before I received the last and final call from my mom. It was the end this time. No wishing or hoping or pleading. I cried like I did the night before. In the pitch black dark, I heaved and sobbed. I didn't want to say goodbye.
By the time I reached the condo to pick up my uncle, I had pulled it together. We drove silently over to the hospital and parked in a similar spot from the night before. Through the metal detectors and up to the ER desk for our visitors badges. It dawned on me that as I put the sticky badge on my shirt, it would be the last time I would have something to mark my time there. I've held on to it to this day.
We took the long walk up to her floor and walked through doors we had been in and out of for the past few days. The first two thirds of her room were dimly lit but the place where she was lying almost had a spotlight on her. The machines continued to beep and monitor but according to the nurse it was time. She would give us as much time as we needed but there was nothing else they could do for her.
It felt awkward to me. For a moment we all stood around the bed and stared at her. Everything in my being wanted to crawl into the bed and lay beside her but I didn't. I touched her hair, stared at all of her features and soaked in whatever I could to seal the physical memory of her. As I walked around the bed, I made my way to her left side. The overwhelming pain seared inside of me and I doubled over resting my face between her arm and her chest. My left arm was draped over her and the other was nestled between the two of us. I am usually very claustrophobic but I felt better with my face cradled right in the flesh of her arm. It felt so familiar and foreign at the same time. How could she not be moving? Why weren't her arms around me? Why was she so stiff?
I cried and cried in the crook of her arm. I'm not sure how long I was there but eventually I released my embrace of her to the glaring and sterile light of the hospital room.
Everybody else said their own personal goodbyes and then the machines were slowly turned off. One by one everything was shut down.
And at approximately 3AM she was gone.
It seemed like my family felt the best part of her leave when her time of death was called. I couldn't comprehend that but I did panic over us leaving her. The nurse kindly said they would take it from there but it seemed so stupid. Why would we leave without her? She was supposed to come, right? She can't just be by herself without us. These strangers won't know how to care for her. What if she needs us?
And then I understood. It was over. We had to walk away. Walk away from a woman who had been in my life for over 27 years. A woman who introduced me to classic movies. A woman who shared her joy and brought magic to holidays. A woman who picked me up from school (sometimes begrudgingly) when I had cramps. A woman who pushed my buttons. A woman who made me laugh so hard I couldn't breathe. A woman who saved me at college when I was struggling. A woman who patiently helped me find the exact right anti depressant medication. A woman who helped raise me. A woman who was ecstatic about me getting my drivers license so I could run errands. A woman who listened to all of my complaining when I knew she just wanted to shake some sense into me. A woman who loved me like her own child. A woman I shared a lot in common with.
A woman I was really lucky to know. Not just during her best times but also her worst.
It was extremely hard to walk away that day in the hospital. Not only because it was emotionally painful but because it was physically challenging to walk away from a woman I loved deeply.
But I'm fortunate. When I finally did walk away, it was with no regrets. No desire to say something more to her. No sadness around not spending enough time with her. No feeling of not saying I love you enough or missing the chance to hug her really tight. I did all of those things over the past 27 years. I've lived with the fear of my parents dying young so a part of me always felt the fragility of life. I spent quality time with her when she was here. And if something went awry, I worked really hard to mend it quickly so that I could soak her in for as long as she lived. And boy did she live! Do I still wish she was here? More than anything, with every fiber of my being. But sometimes (well really almost all the time) we have very little control over the timing life.
I still feel strong pain and disbelief. I'm angry. Angry for her. Angry for everybody who loved her so much and would love to be able to see her or pick up the phone and hear her voice.
I feel some semblance of peace around her death one minute and then a sudden urge to punch a wall the next. June 11th will always mark the day of her death but every day will always be different because she isn't here.
I still remember the feeling of her skin, the tightness of her hug and the silkiness of her hair. And when that Marc Jacobs scent of hers wafts by from a stranger, it always brings me back to her.
One year ago, Aunt Cardie, and it really only feels like it was yesterday. I love you to pieces and bits.