Written in May, 2023:
I've flown to Las Vegas 3 times in the last 2 months, all to sit by the bedside of my 92 year old Aunt Sue as she moves closer to death. The 1st time was a last-minute flight after a fall and a broken hip, when death seemed imminent. When I said goodbye, I cried and she cried and we thought it was our last time together.
The next 2 times, death was still imminent, but I've grown to love this time with her. I enter into a bubble, in the assisted living home. It's a place where everyone who lives there has lived their lives: worked in their careers, raised their children, gone through the hustle and bustle and worry and stress of life. They're now just, well, waiting, for the next chapter. If they're strong enough, they wheel, or slowly walk, and see their neighbors, or go outside to sit and listen to the birds, or sit for a meal in the dining room. If they're not, it's a bed and sleep and some tv or some music or just lost in decades of memories of life. If it's the worst, there are no memories.
I met 91 year old Norma, who is a Cherokee Indian, from Oklahoma. She told me when she was young she went to the Pow Wow in Albuquerque, in full regalia. Now, she doesn't see too well, and her daughter visits her when she's not traveling for work.
I met a man who worked in accounting in Boston. Our visit was brief and I didn't get his name.
I met Ken, who lived across the hall from Aunt Sue, and would check on her as he went down to the dining room for dinner.
And my Aunt Sue, who was an elementary school librarian and a lifelong athlete. Because of her, I love to read, and have a mean tennis backhand and swim like a fish. Because of her, I love to travel and see new places. Because of her, I am lost in a good book.
She had a hard time, the last decade, as her body started to give out. She rarely rested in her life. Walk, swim, golf, tennis. Becoming elderly and full of pain and her body weakening made her afraid, and thus, angry. It was a hard time for all of us 4 niece and nephews, who were her family. Hard to love her sometimes.
And then, the fall. The broken hip. The acceptance. This is the last chapter. She's ready to go. There's no fight left. And what remains is just peace. And gratitude. And lots of sleep. And an occasional smile or chuckle. (especially when I took my diary from when I was 9 years old and read it out loud to her)
I take knitting. I've made 3 washcloths. Given 2 to her, just because they're bright and a small square to hold, a pop of color. A quilt may be brought next. Something small in size and bright in color.