None of us thought it would be my Auntie. That call, that news.
I think of my Uncle waking to find his lifelong companion cold beside him. My heart goes out to him. You see, they have been inseparable for all of a long lifetime. There were no children to argue over or break that pairing. It was a traditional relationship where she kept the house (and in some ways was ocd about it!) and home and he went out and worked, providing the income and came home to her.
The family is full of stories of her quirks;
* the fact she would not let anyone inside the house if they visited – they took tea and coffee on the concrete stoop outside or if the weather was bad, in the garage- she was excessively house proud and needed everything JUST so.
* the fact they installed an outside shower in the garage so my Uncle would shower and change and leave all his dirty workclothes outside ( there in the laundry) before she would allow him inside,
Her taste in decorating was Victorian clutter- ish but she was well pleased with it. I suppose that is what matters. He was devoted to her and the fact they never had children wound them close and closer. Inseparable.
And she and my Uncle would travel across the world to spend time with my mother, regularly as they were both older. Mum started doing it every couple of years and then ill health and increasing frailty stopped her. They came to her then.
In coming to her, they came to us. Many times across the years, I kept Aunt Marjorie busy shopping for souvenirs while Mum and my Uncle caught up and spent time together. She was unfailingly kind to me and not at all judgmental. As others have been and are.
And she loved my mum and Uncle Kevin. And she loved me and mine.
Over the many years starting when she was young and hale and healthy, the family joke was the fact she claimed frailty. It was obvious to everyone she was anything but delicate and frail. She clung to my Uncle, like a vine.
As they aged we all worried about what Marjorie would do if Uncle Kevin died first. We offered for her to come to us, (all of us here), because unlike the family they grew around or near, they developed a close bond with me and mine half a world away. It was my grand daughters pictures she carried in her wallet and pulled out to bore her friends with. It was my children who she loved dearly. We became the family she was unable to give birth to.
My Uncle is devastated. They have been together longer than I have been alive, and that is a substantial span. Mum and I do not know if he will survive this loss. They had only each other for that entire time and stuck with it through thick and thin, good and bad and up and down. A piece of me envies them that. But I too worry how he will go. I know how great a hole this recent sundering of mine has torn in me and that was after 8 years. I fear for how my Uncle will cope – or if he will and we then face also his loss.
Mum is feeling guilty for not taking my Aunt’s increasing frailty seriously. As she has considered herself living on borrowed time the last 2 years, she feels in some ways it should have been her. I pointed out to her that there is no way we could have known.
But last night and today I gathered my fond memories of a pedantic and particular quirky woman who loved me and cared for me and know for me at least, the world is a little dimmer because she has left it.
I do not like letting go. I love and hold close and ache to keep forever, near at heart if not in body. But the love she gave freely, and the simple acceptance of me are gifts that stay.
I am grateful she was not wracked and tortured in pain. I know she became the delicate whisp she had always claimed to be, at the end. She had endured test after test and the doctors could find no reason. At the end she struggled to do anything, so she could not bustle and do around the house as she always had, and my Uncle helped her as she liked it in a particular way. Between them they managed. Fortunately my Aunt Margaret lives nearby and was with him last night. We know the family will not leave him alone with this.
Last night, selfishly, I wanted and ached to just crawl into someone’s arms and be held to cry out, to sob tears that spell and speak this loss. And yes I cry for my loss, and my mother’s. For the lack in this world of someone who underpinned us.
There is that sadness there is noone who loves me enough to be there for me and offer me that comfort. But in truth even if we are with someone for a lifetime, one or the other will pass away and we are born alone and die alone. I have just had more practice at being alone, and dealing alone than most others. I am trying to look at what I do have, and not at what is missing.
“Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.” ~Eskimo Proverb
For me this has been a hell of a year.
One day at a time.