Friday, October 6, 2017

The last of

Maggie May Ethridge wrote that she's been feeling a strange, unfriendly energy wrapping the planet like cellophane. It gonged in my spirit like a bell of truth. I woke this morning to a phone call from my cousin letting me know that our Aunt Jo died in Kingston last night. She was the last of my dad's five siblings, the oldest at age 97. I received the news with a sigh, and the thought that now she was free. In a way, she was lost to us a decade ago, the fog of Alzheimer's thick on her, with not even those momentary breakthroughs of recognition. "The last of the Mohicans," my cousin said. "For some reason that phrase is just circling in my mind."

My father's side of the family is not as dramatically demonstrative as my mother's side of the family. We don't efficiently pass news of literally everyone and everything in real time like my mother's side does, but we are close nevertheless. With my cousins on my dad's side, there is no doubt that help, should we need it, is a phone call away. My father's side specializes in swinging into action, unlike my mother's side, which one might say never really swings out of action.

I'll never forget when I was maybe 9 years old, the news came that my dad's youngest sister, who had migrated to Toronto, married a Canadian, and was raising her family there, fell upon a hard time. I won't go into details about it, but she had been committed to an institution against her will. As soon as my dad hung up the phone from the family friend who apprised him of this, he rallied his other siblings, all still living in Jamaica. It was late evening, but they all arrived at our home within the hour for a family meeting. The very next morning, my dad and his brother were on a plane to Toronto, where they succeeded in straightening things out and getting their baby sister's life back on an even keel. What stays with me was their absolute lack of hesitation.

And the year my dad was dying—he and my mom were living in St. Lucia then—my Aunt Jo flew to be by his side, and help my mother care for her brother. I traveled there from New York at one point to give blood for my father, as I was the best match in the family. My daughter was eleven months old, and very attached to me, and when I left her in Aunt Jo's care to go to the hospital with my mother, she cried inconsolably. She refused to be comforted, and even fiercely pushed Aunt Jo over as she stooped to try and hold her. This endeared her to Aunt Jo forever. She loved how spunky her grand niece was, and never tired of telling her that. My daughter, for her part, was horrified that she had pushed over her then 76-year-old aunt, even if she was not yet a year old.

Fly free, dear Aunt Jo. I imagine you shaking off that gray earthly mien, getting up out of your wheelchair, the light coming back on in your eyes. Say hi to everyone on that side of the cellophane for me. Tell them to blow us some love.


21 comments:

  1. Oh I'm so sorry. I feel the uneasiness wrapping around us all. Head down heart open .love
    Rebecca

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    1. Thank you, Rebecca. Heart open is a good plan. xo

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  2. Your writing.
    You bring us all with you, right there to share it all.
    The joy and the pain and incredible sweetness of your family.
    Thank you. May Aunt Jo be free.

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    1. Dear Mary, it is incredibly sweet, looking back on it. And now, the price of all that love and closeness is loss. The old ones are almost all gone now. But I know I am rich beyond measure to have had them.

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  3. I'm so very sorry. It's so lovely to picture her with the light back in her eyes! Dementia is a cruel thief. My friend is n the final stages of her struggle and the light in her eyes has been stolen too. I hope much love is blown your way.
    Xoxo
    Barbara

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  4. Angella, I feel sad for you and all the losses that seem to keep coming at you one after another. I’m so sorry for loss. Truly. xo

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    1. Birdie, all these losses are a gift in a way. They mean i was part of something large and wonderful. I pray our generation can create that for our children. Thank you, dear one.

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  5. You have a wonderful family. You are blessed.

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  6. Your wonderful family, whose beauties you so graciously share. Yes, may
    your Aunt Jo, connoisseur of spiritedness, fly free.

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    1. A, connoisseur of spiritedness--i love that! xo

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  7. I'm sorry for your loss, and at the same time you have such good memories of her. Thank you for giving us a peek into those.

    And when you wrote "getting up out of your wheelchair, the light coming back on in your eyes" . . . it hit home for me, too, and I cried for your aunt and for my dad both.

    Take care of yourself, A.

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    1. jenny_o, we will miss them, but it helps me to think that perhaps they can be expansive again. i like to think it. love.

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  8. I'm sorry to hear about your aunt. I've said this before, but I love how deeply interconnected everyone in your family is, and that each person prompts a set of memories within you. I lost an aunt and uncle this summer too, but I didn't even write about them because I barely knew them. Families can be so different!

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    1. Steve, when i think about it, my mother's nine siblings, my father's five, and all their spouses, yes, it has been a lot of loss. But the time before it was wonderful. As hard as it has been to watch them all fade, I feel lucky, really, to have had had them.

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  9. This post has done a wonderful thing, reminding us that life and death, family and love are happening all the time. Every story is a love story here. May Aunt Jo's memory be for a blessing.

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    1. robin, i adore this perspective, and your comment that every story here is a love story. Oh yes. Thank you, friend.

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  10. I'm glad she is free from the fog, my Mom had dementia at her life's end and tho' certainly we grieved our loss, for her we were glad she was free of it. What a wonderfully close and involved Family you have, a great Blessing.

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    1. Bohemian, someone (Birdie above) told me once that dementia is hard on the family but can be soft on gentle on the one who has it. That comforted me immensely. Thank you for being here.

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  11. Sad times for your family and I too got a sad phone call 3 days ago that my stepmom died, at age 84. Your Aunt Jo sounds like a good soul.

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    1. Terra, I am so sorry to hear of your loss. I send wishes for peace to your family. Aunt Jo was indeed a good soul. I am sure there was much celebration on the other side upon her return. I like to think it so. xo

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