This is a post more for my own memory than anything else. I'm actually fine - it's just been an unusual day. I got a call from my mother today telling me that her sister Jana, who lived in Utah, had passed away. She had been in poor health for years with Parkinson's Disease. The last year or two she had really deteriorated, hadn't had much quality of life. The one thought that stayed with me was of how wonderful she must have felt in the moment she was able to leave her poor sick body behind. Incredible freedom and mobility after years of having none. Having a joyous reunion with her mother, father, and a whole slew of family members. It helps to think of that and know that it happened. Somewhere there was joy and celebrating.
Both my mother and my aunt Margie (who lives close by me) seemed fine - just feeling a bit surreal about it all. My mother made the comment that it felt odd to be a family of 6 and now "we are just 3." I tried to imagine how I would feel if that were me, and I decided I didn't even like to think about it. We grow up with our brothers and sisters, and it feels like we'll always be here together, gathering at the holidays and for birthdays. My husband has already lost his youngest brother, and I'm sure it feels odd at times to those who grew up with Ryan to think that he is no longer here on earth. Each person is their own little force of nature, and we miss the part of us that leaves with them.
This particular aunt was one that, when we were small children, we would spend weekends with, or stay with her when our parents went out of town. We'd play with our cousins, and live a different life while we waited to go home again. Although it's been many many years since I've had a lot of contact with her, those memories for me are still quite vivid. And now it's her children - my cousins - who now live in Utah and one in Oregon who are making the arrangements, and feeling the emptiness. Her daughter said that she looked "beautiful." In her day, Jana had always enjoyed her makeup and doing her hair. In recent years, she hadn't been able to to that for herself, and so Mindy had taken particular joy in making sure her mother was done up right for her last big family gathering. Bittersweet.
As I was thinking these thoughts, my friend Marion called me out of the blue. Her brother had just been diagnosed today with a very aggressive brain tumor, and tomorrow, without taking the time first for a biopsy, they are going in and trying to remove what they can. No one is sure yet what they are facing, and it is terrifying. She said no one had really told her brother yet what was going on, and she was fearing having the conversation with him. I didn't know her brothers well growing up. They were several years older than us, and always seemed so unapproachable. But I remember them, and again, it made me sad to think of my friend facing this news about her brother all alone up in Washington. Life is a precious thing, and sometimes tenuous. My philosophy has become to have no regrets. No regrets that work got in the way of making a memory. No regrets that I was too busy to visit or make that phone call. To be bold, and seize the day. I suggested that she do the same. Take the time to spend with her brother and family. Make some memories. Say what needs to be said. Sit in silence. Hold a hand. Work will always be there, and will wait.
Just when I thought the day was irreparably damaged, the phone rang, and it was this little person:
Lexi called to thank me for the "mummy candy bars" I'd sent (Hershey bars wrapped in layers of white crepe paper with googly eyes peeking out) and to tell me about her Halloween, where she got "so much candy, Mema!" She gave me her Christmas wish list, and chattered about school. She told me that her baby sister was walking all over the place. And then she asked me if I was an artist. ??? I told her that sometimes I was. She had been looking at the Halloween plate I'd painted for her mom a few years ago, and she told me that "it's fantastic, Mema!" She, too, is an artist, and loves to draw and create, so I told her she should send me some of her drawings, and that Papa would love some too. She thought for a minute and said that she thought she would send us each 2 drawings.
It was a regular conversation, very every day. But it was the sweet enthusiasm that only a 6 year old can possess that warmed my heart. She is looking forward to being 6 3/4, however, and was a little disappointed that she would have to wait another 2 months for that because her friend Mary is already
6 and 3/4 years old.
Do you know what I'm talking about? How does one little person lift your heart up like that? How do they transfer joy from their world to yours? It's a mystery, but it should be bottled and given out freely. The whole world could benefit.
So that was my day. Death, sickness, grave concern - and then the incredible lightness of having my spirit lifted up in the most amazing way by a little girl just being herself. Everyone should have a Lexi in their life. She made me remember the wonder and joy of being alive. I'm a lucky girl today after all.