Wednesday, March 26, 2014

After

We're deep in the planning of Aunt Winnie's memorial service and the details are endless. Hardest for me is cleaning up and clearing out Aunt Winnie's apartment so that family members who are coming for her service on April 5 will be able to stay there. Her home had literally become a hospital wing; that bed she used, the one that pumped air under her body continuously to keep her papery skin from breaking down, was a huge and complex piece of electrical machinery. I didn't grasp quite how complex it was until I watched the men dismantling it and packing it up today.

Her room is empty now, the carpet stained and old, the walls bleak and tired, the furniture scuffed from decades of use. The house looks sad, and Aunt Grace, who will be staying there with her two daughters and three of my other cousins, was on the phone last night, crying, saying she didn't think she could walk into that apartment again knowing that her sister was gone from there forever. So much hard life occurred in that place, as Winifred slipped from us by inches, skin and bone at the end, her body curled tight, her cheekbones sharp, her eyes sunk deep, hair thin and white and feathery. I see her there, even as I collect and compile photographs from her earlier years, and try to bring back the way she used to be, her eyes alight with some mischief, a woman onto herself, striding ahead of the pack, the rest of us following like eager ducklings in her wake.

Going through her things this afternoon, I found a folder that held a literary magazine I had contributed a short story to in college, and issues of the college newspaper that contained stories I had written, the newsprint yellow and brittle with age. My own mother had not kept these things. I had forgotten I'd even written these stories. But there they were, faithfully preserved by Aunt Winnie, who pretended not to be sentimental, but kept my student writings in a red folder tucked among a pile of photo albums next to her chair.

Here's a picture I found. It was taken at my daughter's baptism. She is the baby and four of the sisters are clucking over her, each of them knowing what's best and no doubt arguing happily about it. That's Aunt Grace, Aunt Maisy, Aunt Winnie and my mom, Gloria. I love the way they are all holding my child. My daughter would grow familiar with the tornado of woman energy that whipped up whenever the sisters were together, but by the look on her face in this photo, she wasn't quite used to it yet.

My girl will be 20 years old in two days. Next week, we are going to St. Lucia for her spring break as planned, and will return for Aunt Winnie's service at the end of the week. By the time we get back, family members will have arrived from everywhere. I'm a little stressed right now, but I know we will manage to send Aunt Winnie off in grand style. She deserves no less.

10 comments:

  1. Every thing is making me cry today.
    That picture made hot, new tears spring anew in my eyes.
    Love. Love. Love.
    All that love. The current everything runs on. It will never die.

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  2. That picture is just.... wow! It could win an award. So much history and love.

    It is so hard going through the things that our loved ones cherished. Deciding what to keep, what to give away and what to throw away is daunting but I am so glad that you found a folder of your writing.

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  3. Everything is also making me cry today, and I teared up when reading this and even more when I saw that picture. Your girl was encircled with love, and I'd be happy in that group of women too. This is a hard time, and while the travel will be good, I know it has got to be stressful on top of everything. I am thinking of you, as trite as that sounds. But, I really am.

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  4. That picture just made me burst out in tears. There's something so powerful and so dear about it -- particularly as you've shared these women with us here over the years and there's a part of me that feels like I know them. Oh, Angella -- may your woman-grace, encapsulated in that photo, in the bodies and faces of those women continue on in your daughter and her daughter and so on and on. Amen.

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  5. what a beautiful picture. happy early birthday to your daughter! I

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  6. Thinking of you with love today. This is a hard passage, may the hugs help you through. Your daughter was lucky and blessed to have these women in her life. Thanks for sharing the lovely photo with us - it tells a whole story in one picture. Xxoo

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  7. Your family is so special. I don't think I have any photos that REAL. In all our photos everyone is stiffly posing.

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  8. I'm so sorry to hear about Winnie. There's so much love. I don't think that every goes away no matter where or what plane people exist on. You'll always feel that, I think. Take care of yourself and your family. Sending love. xoxo

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  9. We can see that all those loving hands holding your girl was the beginning of her being shaped into the woman she is today. She was fortunate to have grown up around all that 'woman energy'... I'm sorry that one of the forces of that energy is gone. May she rest in peace and may you and your family find peace as well.

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  10. it's a sad time, of loss, and longing...and yet, i can't help but think how lucky you are, all of you, to be part of such a strong circle, a legacy,of life-affirming women. even as aunt winnie passes, waiting in the wings is the next generation of smart, gifted women who will gather to memorialize her. at the same time, you and your peers make room for your own young women and men, who grace the threshold of the world.

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