I have been around death more times than I’d like to remember. My Aunty Lee was given her death sentence in early January of this year—two to three weeks to live – suddenly, out of the blue, after a random visit to the doctor, complaining about occasional stomach aches.
It’s now mid-April, and up until the last week, that iron woman was still laughing and talking with us, albeit with fading energy, and yet never with a mention of her impending fate. Her favourite things she had left to look forward to were visits from her loved ones, and eating, yes eating. She craved delicious meals, her only want in her palliative state.
My sister and I visit her regularly, as well as her two pillars that are always by her side; her daughter and granddaughter. With each visit we all like to bring her something tasty, something for her to look forward to. In these past few days, she’s lost her passion for food and the desire to speak.
I’ve witnessed all the stages, too many times, from living, to the preparation for the journey into the next world. The appetite diminishes, words become less frequent, but most of all, the light begins to subside from their eyes. These are some of the signs that tell me the journey to the other side is in commencement.
Many people, including myself, get antsy—that uncomfortable feeling within of helplessness, when we no longer feel that there is anything satisfactory enough we can do to make our ill loved ones comfortable. We have only to go by what we know of them; their habits, facial expressions, the type of smile they may give us, or the moments of their spawned tears, to decipher what they are feeling. We remind them how much we love them, and we are gifted in those precious moments when they utter a word to us; especially when they say your name and tell you once again, that they love you, in the midst of their long silences.
I can sense my aunt’s humility of her situation, although she never once complained. Her conversations with us now begin to fade mid-sentence, with limited strength to speak, leaving us pondering what it is she wants to say. It is so very sad to watch, and often when I’m there, I feel like fleeing while my heart aches for her demise. I don’t want to be part of it. It hurts to watch my aunt become a former shell of herself. But each time I feel that urge, I think about how much more my aunt doesn’t want to be enduring it herself. And so I stay.
I sit and watch her and replay all the good times with her. I speak with her in hopes that she may engage me back with conversation, or that I can at least offer her conversation. Yet, at the same time, I struggle with my curiosity, wondering if I’m infringing on her quiet moments as I natter on about insignificant things.
Sometimes my aunt will take herself out of her silent trance and mention the name of a dead loved one; a sister or brother, or her lost child. She then asks when one of them are coming to visit her. I believe this is the stage where the journey begins to the other world. It feels to me as though my aunt has one foot here on earth and the other in heaven. Perhaps her loved ones are calling for her as they await her arrival.
These are some of the things I’ve witnessed quite a few times, and though I have no confirmation that it is so, I truly believe. I am honoured that my cousin had asked me to write a eulogy. It was a painful thing to do, and something I had never undertaken. But I am grateful that I get to share all of my aunt’s wonderful qualities, and strengths from the hurdles she overcame in her life – the important things for her to be remembered by.
I don’t know all that is rolling around my aunt’s head as she lay in silence most of the day now, even with eyes wide open. In my sixth sense sort of way, and with my empathy, I feel her gratitude for us loving her, her sadness to leave her family, her fear of the unknown, and her desire now to be let go.
I’ve written a poem here depicting what I sometimes feel she is thinking.
Tick tock goes my soul,
Halfway there, no longer whole.
I see a world full of love here, yet I’m lost in the past,
The time to leave – the now, is approaching fast.
My vibrant eyes once expressed delight,
Are tired now, no longer shine my inner light.
Embodied in a physical shell,
A mere existence from a life I once felt.
My heart so filled with love does keep me here,
I have nothing left to offer, but the occasional tear.
I feel the tug of heaven’s call,
I must go soon, I love you all.
D.G. Kaye ©April 2015