My Aunt Virginia passed away a week ago today. We’ve lost three family members in less than a year, and it’s hard. We have our memories, but we would rather have the people. For me, when I think about each one of them, specific things come to mind.
With my Aunt Carine, I can see her motions. I can see her walking around the house, and sitting with one leg tucked beneath her, and the way she passed bowls of food at dinner. I can see the movements of her arms and hands. But mostly I hear her voice. She had a nice voice and a gentle way of speaking. I can see her sitting across the living room from me during Bible study, talking something out with me, explaining, examining. I so wish I could have all those words back and hear all those talks again. But she was someone who used your name a lot, and at least I can still hear her saying, “You know, Michelle…” I can still hear the way she said my name.
Have you ever noticed that some people have a special way of saying your name? Maybe it’s the tone of their voice or their inflection or their accent or simply that it’s the voice of someone you care about. Or maybe it’s just that some people fill up your name with so much stuff! With love and memories and compassion and humor and I don’t know what. But somehow they pack it all in there, into that one word, a word that not only belongs to you but somehow is you.
With my cousin Brandon, I see him playing guitar. Not talking, not looking up, just playing. I had a hard time getting him to talk to me; he’d say as few words as he could get away with and then close himself up with a little smile. I can picture that smile and his head tilted down and just a bit to the side. But his eyes are smiling up at me, telling me there are a multitude of things going on in his head that I’m just not gonna be privy to. I knew who he was with his family and friends, had witnessed the gregarious Brandon. But we weren’t close enough for him to be that person with me, and that’s okay.
That smile of Brandon’s always reminded me of my cousin Joey. Joey had that same kind of smile, and I always had the feeling that somehow he was teasing me behind it. Like he knew things about me that I didn’t know myself, and he was thinking, “you’ll figure it all out eventually.”
Now, with my Aunt Virginia, I hear her laugh. It was more of a chuckle, I guess, a quiet kind of laugh. I see her smiling and laughing a lot, and how her face would kind of open up when she laughed. And I haven’t put on a pair of earrings since I was about 13 without thinking of her. When she saw me putting them on by feel, she thought it was just so clever. She was laughing then, too. We were in the stairwell outside of my family’s apartment door. “You can do that without looking!?” She said she couldn’t do that without a mirror, and she laughed.
Now why should that little moment stick with me so long? I don’t know why, but it has. And I can hear her saying, “love you”. Whether we were leaving big family gatherings or little visits, she’d always say that.
So sorry to hear of your bad year. That is too many loved ones at one time.
I love when I dream about my family who are gone. All the mannerisms they had on Earth are there and it is wonderful to hear their voices. I wish I would dream about them more often.
It is too many – it’s rough on the family when we can’t get over one loss before another happens. I don’t dream like that, at least not that I remember. That would be nice, I think, to see them again almost for real. The brain doesn’t really forget.
Enjoyed reading about your memories of your family members, made me reflect on those we’ve lost and what springs to mind. Thanks for being you.
I’m glad. I was intending to write something different, but this came out instead. I was hoping it might make someone else remember fond things about their loved ones.
So sorry for your losses this year x
Thank you, Catherine.
What a sad time you are having! I’m so sorry. You have expressed this so beautifully, Michelle.
I feel guilty taking the condolences, because it’s other family members who are suffering the most acutely. But I do appreciate everyone’s thoughts!
I am way behind on my blog reading, Melissa, and have been tackling things one person at a time. I will catch up with you, I promise. I can’t bring myself to skip to the front and just delete the old posts – I want to read everything of yours I’ve missed!!
So sorry you have had to say good-by to those you love. Your sweet memories will help as you journey through grief.
Thank, Patricia. I agree and I think it’s a good thing to express the memories and share them with each other!
Oh, Michelle, that was my first thought, that you’ve already had several family members pass away this year. I’m so sorry. It is always hard losing those we love. You are certainly in my thoughts.
Thanks, Angela. Actually, you are always in my thoughts! I hope you are doing well (as can be expected) and keeping your spirits up. I know that has got to be pretty rough and it must suck to deal with. I’m looking forward to hearing your “voice” again on your blog. And I’m sure you’re looking forward to the end of this part of the process.
It is very, very difficult to write when I’m feeling so horrible during chemo. Then, in between treatments, when I feel kind of human again, I just want to enjoy the feeling and do something that doesn’t involve sleeping or sitting. But I do sleep a lot!
Well, the most important thing is you! We are only a very close second. Haha, just kidding! You just have to take care of yourself. We’ll be here when you come back!
Thanks, Michelle. I’ll be back very soon!
I came across this post in my inbox – one of the posts I hadn’t had time to read earlier.
It’s beautiful. And tragic too, when I think of how death means a person’s thoughts, opinions, ideas all come to a sudden end. The dreams they had dreamed and the experiences they had had. It makes me feel very sad.
I know! It’s so terrible and sad and final. You know me, so you know I believe in heaven and that the spirit goes on and all. When my aunt died, I kept thinking how she’s okay and probably really very happy now (she had lung issues that caused her a lot of pain and suffering these last years), and how it’s the rest of us that are torn up. But those same things still apply – she isn’t here to talk to her kids and husband, to see and experience this world anymore. Like you said, all those thoughts and ideas and hopes and dreams all are just ended. I believe very strongly in the afterlife, but that’s not here and now and what we know as ourselves. It does feel very tragic. And I’m sure this brought up lots of thought and emotions for you with your Grandmother. It’s so hard to know that the person we know and love is no longer here experiencing life with us.
Oh I’m with you on that one – death as a powerful analgesic. I think when people suffer a lot, they accept death as a means to finally be rid of it. That is why I am so strongly in support of legalization of euthanasia. There will be implementational problems, but in practice, keeping someone alive who is suffering is just a way to prolong their misery, especially when it is long and hard and without an end in sight.
I rambled a bit – I don’t have anything to say about afterlife. But thinking from the point of view of someone who does believe in it, imagine, for your aunts and your cousin, it must be great to be rid of all these earthly problems like inflation, recession, poverty, disease, global warming etc. 😀
True! I think it’s hard for us not to think of it in relation to our own selves – like how would I feel if I found out I was going to die – and we put those feelings on the other person, even though they’re obviously beyond that because they’re gone. If that makes sense. I also think sick people should be able to choose for themselves. It would have to be in a doctor kind of setting I think, to keep it on the up and up. But I do believe some old people just reach a point when they’re done and then a healthy person suddenly deteriorates and dies within a matter of weeks or months.
Yeah, I knew someone in my family with whom that happened. In such cases, where you know that you’re just superficially prolonging their lives, you aren’t making them any healthier or stronger, I believe they should get the choice to end it if they think their recovery will be pointless – you know, if they will recover but be so weak that they’ll fall sick again, or not be able to do anything, etc.
I don’t know what dying/old/sick people feel about this. It’s hard to really say until you’ve felt like you were dying yourself.