my aunt is dying. i am struggling to process it; this is my first experience with real loss. i was thinking about writing about it, but i hesitated. i thought, “what else is there to say about death and grieving that hasn’t already been said by somebody else, probably better than i ever could?” and then i realized (or maybe decided) that the point of writing about death and loss and sadness isn’t really to be a smart cookie who’s saying anything revelatory. it’s to move through the pain. i don’t think this will have a thesis or a linear progression. it’s just what it is.
sometimes i worry that people won’t understand how sad i am about my aunt dying because i know that not everyone feels very close to their aunts. i worry that they will think i am being dramatic in some way.
i had half-days when i was in kindergarten. my aunt picked me up every day after my mornings at school. i would spend all afternoon with her. i remember she took me to the dentist once, and i had to get a cavity filled. she gave me popsicles as a treat afterwards. we would run around in the empty lot next to her house. sometimes, i would pretend to be a dog named happy, and my cousin would pretend to be my owner. that sounds weird, but it was fun to have a game to come back to over and over again.
once, my brother stuck beads up his nose at her house. she got them out.
she and my uncle took my brother and me camping for the first time ever when we were young. my brother threw up in the middle of the night, and we went home.
she took a photography class when i was in high school. once, we went to a warehouse for one of her assignments, and she took pictures of me that were supposed to capture my identity. i don’t know where those pictures are now, but i remember what i wore. i felt special when we did that. she took my senior pictures when i graduated from high school, too. i think a lot of teenagers feel uncomfortable in front of cameras. i did. but it felt safe with her. which sounds corny, but it’s still true.
she came to nearly all of my orchestra concerts as a high schooler. i always felt like she genuinely cared about and was impressed by the music i made.
when i was in college far away, we got lunch every time i was home. i remember once we went to the mall with my cousin and got manicures, too.
i don’t even remember when this happened. the last time we got lunch, she had been diagnosed with cancer, but she wasn’t that sick yet. we talked about it a little. she was very matter-of-fact and gave me a lot of medical information. not a lot of feelings talk. that has always been her style.
one year, i wanted kitchen supplies for christmas because i was graduating from college the next spring and anticipated having a kitchen to fill soon. she got me two skillets, pyrex measuring cups, mixing bowls, and a saucepan. she will always help nourish me.
for a birthday, i asked for drawing and painting supplies because i had just taken an art class for the first time and was enamored with it. she got me pens, cyan watercolor paint, and so much paper. she will always be there when i am in the mood to create.
i saw her today. probably for the last time. she was so weak and tired. it felt like i was seeing her at 100 years old, without any of the years together. i wish i could see her age. i wish i could know her without children in the house, when being a mom was no longer an everyday task. she always had a lot of volunteer work going on, but so much of her life was about her kids. i wonder what she would have done when they were grown up.
i wish she could live longer just because it feels so unfair that she will die young. i also wish, maybe selfishly, that she could be around for my future. she used to be a social worker; i wish i could talk to her about that now that i am thinking about grad school. i wish she could she me get a job that i love. i wish i could brag to her about it. i wish she could see me maybe get married someday, or meet the kids i might have. i just wish she could see me grow up for real.