Friday, December 23, 2011

a breath: i will carry your heart in my heart always …

Auntie Sally's graduation photo.
Today we said goodbye. 

My heart is heavy. It broke again last night at the viewing, first hearing my mother's sobs as she stood over her younger sister's coffin. It broke again when my 82 year old grandmother stood over it to say goodbye to her third born. And again and again as auntie, uncle, sisters stood over it sobbing their goodbyes.

I feel broken. How and why am I still standing?

Back at my grandmother's, the family home is overflowing with bodies. My Auntie Sally I'm sure is smiling down from heaven pleased to see so many people gathered to honor her memory. For me, the house is too filled. I can't breathe so I retreat to the fresh air of my grandmother's garden.

I hear people laughing. Talking. Commenting on the food. More food than we started with. I know I should be inside. Helping. Visiting.

I can't seem to get myself to move off this bench. I am typing these words in Evernote on my iPhone. Keys blurring as I try to write through the tears.


Sally gave me my love of writing stories and reading. When I was young–grade school age–she would give me a list of 10 or 12 words and have me write a story using all of them. Sometimes she would give me the opening line, other times it was all up to me to choose the course of the story. Then I had to draw a picture to go with my story. And when I was done, she'd read it aloud and pile on the praise.

Never without a book in hand, she also gave me my first 300 page book to read when I was in junior high and got me started on horror ("Interview with a Vampire") and period romances ("Shanna" by Kathleen E. Woodwiss).

When my sisters and I were very young, mom had a hard time with fatigue so she would come over and cook and entertain us so my mother could rest. And I remember as each sister was born, she'd come and stay with us to take care of the older girls while mom and dad took care of our newest addition.

Me and Auntie during my 40th birthday celebration.
Several years back, I had a serious complication to elective surgery that very nearly took my life. I was in ICU for a few weeks and then moved to DOU (Definitive Observation Unit -- a step down from ICU) where I remained for a little more than a month. Mom would come stay with me as long as she could but with my youngest sister still at home and my father ill, her time was split. Auntie Sally was there every day, all day. She'd read to me, she'd let me sleep, she'd paint my toes, massage lotion on my legs, feet, arms, hand and make sure that I had a never-ending supply of ice chips and that the nurses where paying attention. When I went home, mom stayed with me for three weeks. Then Auntie Sally stayed with me for three weeks after that. She'd cook, help me on my walks, and introduced me to Buffy – now my favorite show right after X-Files (also a love we shared).

Auntie never married. Never had children of her own. Myself and my four younger sisters, and later my nephew, where like her children. She certainly loved us like we were.

And we loved her as if she was our second mommy.

It still feels so surreal. I won't see her test messages anymore asking me how to unfreeze her laptop, or emails in my inbox praising my latest Confessions post and teasing me about when I'd make what I wrote about for her. No more sharing horror books are talking about our latest sci-fi obsession.

60 years old. Her life seems so short. Her death, so sudden. This last year, I became so busy trying to juggle everything in my life: adjusting to life with a doggy, this blog, freelancing both photo and design work, still working on my jewelry making business, guest blogging and of course, my full-time design job at the newspaper. So busy that I didn't spend much time visiting with her. I am filled with so much guilt because of it. I have to remind myself that she loved me. That she spent a lot of time helping cultivate my creative spirit and encouraged me at every turn. I hope she knew how much I loved her. I hope she knew how much she meant to me. A woman of extreme faith, she lived her life with an open heart and treated everyone she met with a generous smile. She went out of her way to not rock the boat, to forgive no matter how much someone trespassed against her, to never say anything in anger and not hold anything against anyone. She was a good person almost to a fault.

I hope I can honor her memory by being just a fraction of the good person she was.

I love you, Sally. Always and forever.


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