Thursday, April 07, 2005

My Last Visit?

Today was likely my last visit to see my aunt. Initially, I sat paralyzed at her bedside, anxious to find the inner peace from my last visit. Instead, a new shyness overcame me. The words I wanted to say were frozen on my lips as I gazed at her head resting on the pillow, eyes closed. Her voice was but a faint whisper.

Doing my best to stifle the tears that seemed to make her uncomfortable during my prior visits, I searched for the most benign words I could find. Hopeful that breaking the silence by saying anything would calm my nerves enough to get to the important stuff.

Mia: It turned out to be a lovely day today. [pause] The forecast was for rain, but the sun is shining bright.

Auntie (in her barely audible whisper): Lovely.

In the silence that ensued, I tried reading my book again, but sense that she wasn’t sleeping and set it back down.

What do I want to tell her? What do I need her to know? What can I say that won’t sound too heavy and sad and…

Mia: Can I do anything for you?

My aunt shook her head in a gentle “no.”

Another long pause as I scrambled for the words.

Mia: I’ve always enjoyed our talks. I’m sorry that I didn’t visit more often.

My aunt let me know that she’d heard me with an affirmative nod.

Shortly after, there was a knock at the door and her two children, my cousins, arrived.

I tried to perk myself up in case I could be a support to them. They are coping remarkably well considering they lost their father last year and their sister the year before that. I don’t know how they’ve had the strength to get through so many consecutive losses.

It was nice to see my cousins. I’m also glad that I got some time alone with my aunt. There is never enough time.

There is more to this visit. Details that feel like flashes of emotion that I can’t bare to place properly into this story. Struggling with the paid caregiver over whether or not my aunt was asking for water, affectionately covering my aunt in a blanket when she complained of feeling cold, lovingly kissing my aunt on the forehead for the last time as I said my goodbye, my uncertainty when faced with my aunt’s frown as I told her I was going back home, unabashedly sobbing audibly during the entire train ride home knowing this would likely be the last time I made that train trip until her funeral or memorial.

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