What Matters

People often say, "you come in to the world alone and you'll leave the same way".  I never gave that statement much thought heck I'm sure I've agreed a time or two but that's the most insincere statement EVER.  No one, no where, no how comes into the world alone - it's pretty much impossible if you are to survive the ordeal. You are welcomed by the gifted hands of a doula/midwife, or a physician, maybe a parent or in any emergency even an elder sibling and let's not forget your mother without whom your existence would not even be possible so under no circumstance do ANY of us make it here alone.

What got me thinking about all this is my Aunt Evie as she battles the dreaded "C" which went undiagnosed until a few months ago when it would remain hidden no longer in it's fourth and final stage. With Aunt E having neither spouse nor geographically proximate offspring, my Mom has become her caregiver - checking on her daily, speaking with the nurses, calming her daughter who resides in the Midwest and trying to coax her to eat.  Evie, the youngest of 8 siblings (4 girls remaining) entertains few other visitors besides our little trio (My Mom, the Wunderkind and I) and I'm not sure why. 

My Aunt E was always my favorite Aunt when I was growing up.  Her delivery of her standard greetings to me were always so genuine - "Whatcha know good?" or "Hey Shonnie Gal" that I couldn't be anything but happy to see her.  Unlike my older Aunt J who threatened plenty of butt whoopins' without actually doing so, I had nothing to fear from Evie. Being just 18 years older than me, she more than either of the other 2 readily indulged my childish whims. That's the great things about Aunts - they are the best parts of big sisters with a twinge of mother thrown in.  

Petite for most of her life, Aunt Evie never pointed out my "extras" - more than once she assuaged my own self-deprecating remarks by saying "there was just more of me to love".  I often remember fondly, being captivated by her tale of fascination with a curvy voluptuous brown babe getting her groove on at nightclub in Montreal. It was Aunt E who gave me my first sips of beer as a young'un (I think as many folks did that in  the70s as choose not to now) so when I started experimenting with wine fests and varietals she was always willing to imbibe my newest discoveries. Anytime I tried a new recipe for a family gathering, I could always count on her to be the first to commit with an open mind and mouth. If she wanted a favor, she never hesitated to ask me - just last weekend she asked me to bake her a ham of which sadly, I think she ate less than half a dozen bites. She loved to shop and asked me often enough to drive if her next, new shopping destination involved a highway. (The women in her generation just don't "do" highways at least not in my family.) She was and still is very meticulous and more than a little feisty, especially if agitated. In fact, she was so infuriating when I took her car shopping two years ago, I almost disowned her on the spot. Over the last dozen or so years, I've seen her less and less during celebratory gatherings and more as one visiting the infirmed. Still whenever we talked, I retained that fondness even when her tongue got sharp (rarely at me) and her Griffin fiestiness reared its ugly head.

I've never been one to ruminate much on dying, frankly I prefer not to think too much on it as I have so much more I'd like to do and I ain't so sure that anything follows this earthy journey.  But the one thing I do know for sure is that just as none of us comes into the world alone, few of us have acted so egregiously during our time here that we deserve to leave it having been ignored and deprived of compassion that visiting loved ones can bring.  Most especially in cases where there is lengthy illness so onset of demise is no real surprise. WHO among us hasn't pissed someone off, said the wrong things or the right thing at the wrong time, sorely disappointed or broken a heart? In the final analysis so much of the small stuff we cling to and allow to define us and our relationships, is just that ....microscopic dust that adds nothing only takes away - connections, hope, memories, love and most of all time. Originally I thought my being there to visit Evie, sometimes cook and clean, or watch some of the worst pseudo horror movies ever made were to alleviate the burden from my beloved Mama.  A role she has born almost to the day that she became a widow nearly two years ago with such an unconditional love that I truly believe is far beyond what most of us mere mortals are capable. Aunt Evie now has good days and many more bad it seems - some days she's up talking and laughing.  Last week I remembered how pretty her face looked, at 65 not one wrinkle and fewer grey hairs than I. This week it's been mostly a drug induced slumber. Regardless, it has become crystal clear that what matters is honoring my duty as her niece - and my place in our little Tarheel descended clan - for all the times she made me smile, feel special and loved. I want to be there to help replace every molecule of diminished capacity with three of love -  just as she did for me over the last 46 1/2 years.  And what's more the Wunderkind is bearing witness that when that time comes....being there truly IS what matters. 

UPDATE: My Dear Aunt Evie fought a long and brave fight but in the end decided there were other horizons to discover last Thursday afternoon. RIP Aunt Evie  2/14/1948 - 6/6/2013.


Teri's Trek said…
Beautifully written. These are the most precious times. I hope your Aunt Evie knows just how much she means to you.
S said…
I'm sorry for your loss, this was a lovely tribute to her.

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