Friday, October 27, 2006

Loss and Joy

My Aunt Argie died on Saturday.

She had an amazing life. She was in her 90s, still driving, still sprightly--very active in her church, going out for lunch with her daughter several times a week, visiting her sister (my grandmother Evelyn) in the nursing home every day. She found out a month ago she had brain cancer, and left faster than we realized she would. She got to say goodbye to everyone, was happy with her life, and was almost excited about "meeting Jesus" and seeing her departed husband, both of whom she was convinced she'd meet right away. She had very little pain, and was truly "sick" for a very short time.

So, I'm not sad for her. I'm sad for me, and for my grandmother (we all thought Evelyn would go long before Argie, and Evelyn is devastated), and for Argie's daughter (my Aunt Judy).

I'm so grateful that I spent last Christmas day with my husband and my mom and stepfather at Evelyn's nursing home, singing and playing music and telling stories; hugging and holding hands and just listening. Argie and Judy were there, as were my father and stepmother (yes, all four of my parents), and for the few folks left alone in the nursing home for Christmas Day, I think it was a good thing.

I know it was a good thing for me, telling stories and singing along to my stepfather's fiddle music and my stepmother's piano playing. And there is an incredible power in the human touch--we hug babies, but we forget to touch the elderly, and they need it as much as we do. Watching my husband hold hands with an addled old lady in a reclining wheelchair, gallantly telling her how beautiful her eyes were--that was my Christmas present.

So my last memory of Argie is watching her tuck in the blanket around "Suhstah's" (southern for "sister" and the way each refered to the other their whole lives) legs as Evelyn sat in her wheelchair. She sat bright eyed beside Evelyn, holding her sister's hand and singing sweet, high harmonies to the Christmas songs. I got a good hug from her before we left, bending low over her sparrow's body as she held me tight, and watched her drive away in that huge Buick.

So, I'm grateful for that day, especially as we left for Japan a week and a half later. But I'm mad that I didn't "feel" it when she left the world, even though I know that's irrational. And although I'll remember the sadness and I'll miss her, I hope I can also remember the life she led, and find some of that hope and serenity myself, all the days of my life.

Thanks for the joy, Aunt Argie. I'll miss you.