A few weeks ago, for the first time in my life, I said good bye forever to someone I loved.
I said good-bye to my Aunt Pat.
Just typing those words is so hard.
There are a lot of things that I used to take for granted, and the fact that I had an Aunt who loved me so well was one of them. Everyone should have an Aunt Pat; it makes me sad that not everyone does. I feel so lucky that I got to be her little peanut. No matter how silly or rotten or annoying I was being or whatever phase I went through, my Aunt Pat would always give me an indulgent, loving smile and I just knew that I was loved and liked no matter what. I have never known someone with such a gift for loving ornery people.
We found out she had cancer in January of 2012. It was right after we returned to Russia. We were supposed to meet up with her and my Uncle Bob on the day we flew out, but we had to cancel. We hadn’t packed, we were disorganized, blah, blah… I’ll always regret that. We hadn’t been back but a week when we got the news. She had stage 4 lung cancer.
Every time we would see Aunt Pat and Uncle Bob after that, they seemed so upbeat and positive. My Aunt said that she was going to get her first tattoo once she beat this with the dates she was diagnosed with cancer and the date that she found out she was cancer free. She was always such a hoot.
Talking with my cousin Theresa, a personal hero and great person I am lucky enough to call to family, was a different story. Theresa moved back to Houston from Chicago and devoted herself full time to her mother’s care – without resentment, just thankful that she was able to spend that last time with her mom. That’s gospel love friends, Christ’s love, joyfully laying down your life for another person and I hope that I can be like her if ever given the opportunity. I told Theresa that I never felt like I got a straight story from Aunt Pat. Theresa said that my Aunt and Uncle were having a hard time facing the reality of the situation… to which my Aunt replied that OUR generation has NO COPING SKILLS (he he he)… but the truth was, there was almost no way Aunt Pat would beat this.
I remember getting into our car on the way home and breaking down into tears… “Aunt Pat’s dying” I told Nick. I kept it together and tried to remain upbeat, which is what I know she wanted, every time I saw her after that. There’s nothing harder than seeing someone you love, someone you want to hold onto just slip away little bit by little bit…
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving she was released from the hospital, after having been in the hospital almost non stop for months, and admitted to home hospice. We got to her house just as she got home, and she didn’t look good. I took Gemma into another room and nursed her and just cried, but I got it together in time to go and talk to Aunt Pat. She was a little confused at times, but she was together enough to chat about our favorite memories and stories. My mom left the room because she just couldn’t hold back the tears. I know that sometimes hospice people can be wrong, and hospice can drag on for months… my dad was leaving the country for India in a few days, and Theresa’s birthday was coming up, not to mention Thanksgiving and Christmas… if only we could keep Aunt Pat with us just a little longer, through my dad’s return, and through the holidays and after Theresa’s birthday.
But we couldn’t. Sixty-five years just isn’t enough with some people and I wish that we could have had Aunt Pat sixty more…
Aunt Pat passed away the Monday after Thanksgiving, and thankfully I was able to fly to Houston for the funeral, just for a day. My dad wasn’t able to return from India in time, I know he’ll always regret that. My Uncle Bob asked me to speak just for a few minutes to remember this woman that I was blessed to call Aunt, and of course I was honored to.
As we grow up, the adults and elder generations stop being the Gods that we thought of them as children. We learn our parents and grandparents are human too… they can be wrong, they can be petty, they can be unloving. I think we all go through a time where its hard for us to deal with their humanness, and we draw a way for a while because they let us down… and who will be our Gods then? Eventually most of us find our way back to one another, but we never see our elders as the same.
Aunt Pat was different. When held to the arrogant, impossible standards of young adulthood, she was still just the same as she had been when I was a child. She was honest, sometimes a little tactlessly so, but I loved her bluntness. She could occasionally have no sense of humor, and take things too literally (a trait my husband says I share), but she would more than make up for when she would bust out laughing 5 minutes later once the light bulb finally went off! We loved her laugh. She was kindhearted, and loved everyone without asking them to change. And I loved, loved her zest for life! When I am on my deathbed, I know I will look back and remember her riding the Incredible Hulk at 60 over and over… and just smile. Gemma was almost her namesake, but we love Nick’s grandma too, and Isla was named for my Nana, so it was his family’s turn… but sometime I wish that she could have had a namesake in this life. There’s no finer person that I would rather name my girls for.
Heaven gained a good angel, and I cry now, but sometimes I am happy because I know that its just good bye for this life, and we will see each other in eternity.
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.
I’m going to miss her.