A year ago today I was waking up heavily pregnant. I was exhausted. We were also passed the second week that my aunt was told that she had left to live. She was an hour away from me. I had planned on going back that day, but I was just so pregnant and tired and really was not in the forgiving mood for other family members that would be there.
I laid in bed for a good hour, staring at the ceiling weighing out my options. If I didn’t go and I waited, I would probably miss seeing my aunt for the last time. While I had seen her the previous weekend, she was still up and talking, but according to my brother, she was going down fast and was sleeping most of the time now. I would also regret that for the rest of my life. If I did go, it would be exhausting and I would have to deal with a lot of things.
I pulled the cover over my head.
My husband found me soon after. He made me sit up.
“If you don’t go today, you won’t get tomorrow.”
Damn it, I really hate it when he’s right.
“And we both know that if you don’t get another visit in before she passes, you’re going to regret it. You have to go.”
Did I mention, that I really hate it when he’s right?
I threw on a pair of leggings and a sweatshirt and slipped into my sandals. I texted my cousin and asked if they needed anything. I went on a hunt for glutenfree pizza from one of the many pizza places around me. When you live in Virginia and have a gluten intolerance, you rely on your jersey pizza. I finally found it at the pizza place we don’t usually go to and was on my way home.
When I got to the house that so much of my life had transpired in: birthdays, holidays, bringing home my husband– I wasn’t prepared to see my aunt so far gone already. It was clear that within the next day or so, she would be with Jesus. She had been talking to my uncle who had died when I was 12 when she was still awake and was talking about seeing other people who weren’t there. If I ever questioned if we lived after our physical body dies, it was this that gave me hope that there is more after this.
In some ways, it turned into just another visit. We sat talking about life, the baby and my teaching life. It must have been a comfort to her to know that we were all there and that life would go on even if she was missed every single day. My mom and I had looked over at the same time to see my aunt struggling to take her last breaths. Surrounded by my mom, myself, my grandmother, my cousins, my brother and my uncle, my aunt quietly slipped away. And just like that, it was over.
We sat with her for a couple of hours as the reality didn’t even sink in that she was gone. The hospice nurse came and pronounced that she was gone. It still didn’t feel real. My mom and I sat with my cousin as we watched the funeral home take her. The men were there too, but there was something about that moment between us women. It was always us four, even when my cousin and I were younger.
After that everything was a haze. My grandmother had to be moved to assisted living. The house was being sold, my uncle was leaving with my cousin for Virginia. I suddenly had all of these family things in my own home and I was slowly coming to accepting the idea that my aunt would never get to meet my son even though she had been looking forward to his arrival so much. Then it was the funeral and then it was like everything that was my aunt was suddenly gone– my aunt herself, the house that had been my center for many years and with it, was the last of my childhood. I would become a mom 2 months later and life has not been the same since.
It would take more time for me to realize the impact that losing my aunt would have one my life. It was my aunt and my grandmother who I would go to when I needed help and advice and suddenly, my grandmother seemed 20 years older than she had been last year and my aunt was no longer here to call or visit. My aunt was like a mother to me in many ways, she always made sure I had things– new clothes for sorority life, makeup, jewelry, etc. She was also the first one to read my manuscripts and avidly read all of my blog attempts and then would drive me crazy with her commentary to my grandmother about my blogs (usually ones about dating). Christmas was always a huge deal at her house so was every other holiday including our birthdays. She was the heart of our family and since she left us, it’s been strange trying to rebuild that center.
A year ago today, life had changed as I had known it.
Note: This was scheduled to appear yesterday, June 10, 2019, on the first anniversary of losing my aunt, but I couldn’t get through writing it. So, it appears now, after writing and revising this many times over since yesterday afternoon.