My great-aunt is dying. She’s going peacefully, with dignity, surrounded by love and family. My cousin posts daily updates to let us know how she’s doing, how the family is doing. It’s hard. Really hard.
I was 13 when I watched my grandmother take her last breath. I remember that day with an alarming amount of clarity. I was 16 when we said goodbye to my grandfather. I camped on the laundry room floor of my aunt’s house for two days as we watched him slowly drift away. They, too, went surrounded by love and family.
My great aunt’s death marks a milestone for our family. She is the last of the original eight siblings. They kept our family connected and taught us that reunion weekend was important. It was a way to honor my great grandparents. It allowed us to know where we came from and see where we’ve been. Our family (I have dozens and dozens of cousins) has met every year for a weekend for over 40 years. Some years it’s a small gathering of 50ish people, other years there’s more than 100, but it happens every single year. This will be the first year there won’t be a sibling with us. It’s heartbreaking.
My grief for her loss is multiplied with the knowledge that our family walked this road 17 years ago. My grandfather’s body was ravaged with cancer that had spread. He had enough of the fight after a few rounds of radiation. We’d been told it could prolong his life but wouldn’t cure him. But the treatments were horrible. My mom and aunt called in hospice so he wouldn’t be in pain and we watched and waited. Reading my cousin’s posts take me back there. Watching, breathing when they breathe, wondering when- if- the next lungful of air will come. It’s a terrible vigil. While wanting it to end, you also want it to carry on, for there to be a miracle, an act of god, a glimmer of…something that never comes.
If you could send good thoughts, prayers, whatever, to my family. I would be grateful. My aunt’s body is weary, her mind has been gone for sometime. She deserves peace. And that’s all I can want for my family in this moment, as they wait for that final goodbye: peace.