Aunties Love us Unconditionally – #Grief #Loss

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cherish-1016983_1280 Aunty LeeAunties can see our point of views sometimes better than our moms. They can step outside of the box and see both sides when children are in conflict with their moms. They can nurse the wounds we sometimes feel inflicted on us by our moms. They know best about their sister’s character flaws. They do not judge nor condemn.

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My Aunty Lee. A very clever woman; perhaps not with schooled education, but street-wise. She was a lover of life and her family, a woman who wore her battle scars bravely. She was the second youngest of six siblings. My aunt stood by and buried them all – all much too young to die, including herself. She also buried a husband at a young age and fended for herself and children and only a few short years ago, she buried her son who suffered terribly with Crohn’s disease, a dreaded bowel disease that four cousins, including myself inherited somewhere down the line from dysfunct genes.

I never heard her complain, nor question the griefs she had lived through. A true testament of a woman of strength. Never afraid to speak up when she found an injustice. That was my Aunty Lee. She never condemned, nor condoned me or my siblings for not talking to our mother, her sister, for she had tasted that wrath many times herself, yet never walked away.

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The last brave thing I remember her doing was only a few months ago when we were sitting shiva for my mother after she passed, an old friend of my mother’s had come to pay her respects and when she snubbed her nose at me and my sister as though we didn’t exist for no longer being in our mother’s life, my aunt spoke up. She told her that we are all in mourning together, no matter what our differences were and not to make judgments on us, for nobody else has walked in our shoes. I was touched beyond belief. The woman left.

That was the last brave thing I remembered before my aunt hadn’t been feeling well with stomach problems. She went to the doctor who had ordered up a colonoscopy. That revealed a blockage she went a few weeks later to have rectified by laproscopic surgery. Only then when they looked inside, they decided to close her up when they found a multitude of stomach tumours plus ovarian cancer. The next day they sentenced her with a few weeks to live.

I’d been to visit her several times. To look at her one wouldn’t even know she was sick. Her spirit was good, we shared true laughter – and intermittently we shared tears. “I don’t want to die” she said. In her next breaths, she proceeded to tell me her plans to finalize things and prepare for the next world as though sharing a nonchalant story.

My Aunty Lee proudly wearing the St. Lucia T-Shirt I got her. 2/24/2015
My Aunty Lee proudly wearing the St. Lucia T-Shirt I got her. 2/24/2015

Who does that? Who goes in for a test and a minor surgery and has the grim reaper give them a death sentence and yet carry on so stoicly in their moments of fear? My Aunty Lee does, and she did. She was brave through it all, while she kept us sane, always with a smile.

They sentenced her with three weeks to live in January, and she soldiered on until today, Thursday June 4th. The last female standing of the strong matriarchal lineage. Now the torch to keep the family binds are handed down to me, my sister and two female cousins.

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God has rested your soul Aunty Lee. You are with your son and so much family we have lost through the years. We will miss you terribly, but we know you will watch over us from above.




Waiting — Stolen Hours


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

#Fear Series— #Aging and Sickness


life, death and fear

I felt it when I was a child; and that feeling still won’t escape me.

My great anxiety comes over me when I’m around very sick or old people. I cringe inside with fear. When I was young, I didn’t want to be near these people; I didn’t understand why, but as I grew up, I realized that I felt melancholy when around the aged or sick. I felt sad for them because they were no longer young and agile, or felt well enough to be free from their afflictions of old age and/or sickness because they were being held back from the things they once loved to do.

I got too familiar with death and saying good-bye to loved ones by the age of sixteen. Since I was sixteen, for the next fourteen years, sporadically, the hits just kept on coming. I looked after my maternal grandfather when he came to live with us after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, and a subsequent leg amputation. I’d make him tea, and some evenings we played gin-rummy together. All the while, my heart hurt for the pain he was suffering, stoic, and without complaint. Not long after his death, I lost an uncle, a grandmother, my dear aunt who was like a mother to me, and then my own father. In between these deaths, I’d watched them all deteriorate through suffering illness. I sat at many bedsides, visited too many hospitals and been to way too many funerals for my young age.

Throughout my life, I questioned myself as to why I felt so unsettled around the sick and the old, and once again, those feelings have come back to visit.

Five months ago, I buried my mother, and just over two months ago, my mother’s last remaining sibling, my Aunty Lee, who seemed remarkably spry and healthy at the age of seventy-six, went for a routine colonoscopy. The doctor discovered what was supposed to be some sort of minor obstruction and booked her into the hospital a few weeks later to have a simple laparoscopy to repair the blockage. Once they probed inside of her, they found numerous stomach tumors and closed her up. She awoke after the surgery with her natural optimism, thinking that she had been repaired, only to be greeted by her doctor who informed her that she had three weeks to live. I can’t even try to imagine what went through her head when she was handed down a death edict after waking from what she thought was minor surgery from a symptomless diagnosis. But stoic as always, she swallowed her lumps and began to get her affairs in order.

Within days, the ongoing pain that developed had landed her into palliative care. That once brazen, self-sufficient woman, who had conquered so many hurdles in her life and never once complained through any of them, had resolved herself to her demise without a tear in her eye, or a “Woe is me” attitude. That rock is my Aunty Lee. And two and a half months have now passed, and she is still with us. With all her medication and woe, she still smiles and tells us how much she loves us at every visit. She still takes in joy every day with her loved ones. I will never know of all of what goes on in her head, but I know that I still can’t wrap my head around her demise.

Every time I visit her, as I walk the halls of the Baycrest Center for the aged and palliative, that old, unsettled feeling of age and death still looms deep within me. I know that part of my discomfort is because of my empathetic feelings I get for these people. I feel sad for them when I think about how their lives are coming to an end. Sometimes I can almost imagine their pain.

I think I’ve come to understand the unsettledness within me. I believe that it’s my own fears that get heightened when I’m surrounded by inevitable aging and death. I begin to question my own mortality. And I find myself praying harder and faster to God that I will never have to wind up ending my days in sickness, away from my own home.


I think that being all too familiar with sickness and death has the propensity to engrave these fears into our minds. I know the secret is to find a way to overcome these fears. Admittedly, I have yet to master this.


D.G. Kaye ©April 2015

Mourning a Loss


Shivah:  A traditional seven-day period of mourning the dead that is observed in Jewish homes – often used in the phrase sit shivah.    —- Merriam Webster


It’s snowing today. The first snow of the season.

Two days ago we buried our mother. We have been honouring the mourning period which in Judaism is known as “Shivah”. Thursday until 9pm, Friday until 5pm we get up because of the Sabbath there is no Shivah, and resumes Sunday 10am until 9pm. This is the shortened version that many choose to do instead of the traditional seven days.

During the Shivah period, friends and family come to pay their respects to the living immediate family mourning the loss of a loved one. We are sitting together at my brother’s house. In our religion, although my family is by no means religious, we have a system that seems to flow. We bury our dead the very next day (unless it’s the Sabbath day). Word spreads fast and during the Shiva, friends and family keep us company with their various comings and goings. It helps to ease up the sadness, but for me it’s a deterrent because trust me, when you get back home in your own quiet thoughts, it catches up with you. I am sure my emotions may be running amok for the next few weeks anyway; until I can find some resolution with myself and put things into the perspective that allows me to live comfortably.

Every time my husband drives us to and from my brother’s house, we pass the cemetery where my parents now rest together. It felt doubly hard to watch them fill the grave of my mother as the memories of doing that same thing almost 24 years ago with my father came flashing back.

The day before my mother passed and my brother called me to tell me my mother had hours left, maybe a day, I was beside myself. I felt the only thing that could comfort me at that time was to go to the cemetery and be with my father for awhile. I wanted to tell him that the love of his life would soon be coming. I told him that I prayed his eternity with her would be peaceful for him as it was not in his short life.

It was a sunny day, cool and crisp and no snow yet in sight. When I began telling my dad about my mom, the sky got dark and it started to rain. I got concerned that may have been a bad omen, but when I told my sister about it, she said they were his tears of joy. I drove home in the rain. As soon as I parked the car, the sun came back out.

I pray that from all the sadness my family has endured through the years and this past week that this closure may strengthen some of the broken ties between us that the years have tattered with so many hurts and resentments.



I would like to take this opportunity to thank so many of you for your support and condolences here and on social media and for your lovely comments in the guestbook link that was attached to the memorial notice I posted on facebook. It is truly comforting and an honour to call you all friends.


Echoes of Life

Today's thought

It is funny how much we tend to over-look so many things in life – things that are so matter-of-fact which exist in our daily lives yet we may take no notice of their significance until something happens to remind us of their existence.

I am referring to the topic of telephone answering machines. We simply take it for granted that the person leaving an outgoing message when they aren’t home, a simple gesture, can live on much longer than the actual person who’s voice has left that message.

My husband came home from work the other day and instead of being in his usual jovial mood when he returns from work, he appeared to be flustered and distracted. When I asked him what the matter was he responded by telling me that he had tried to get in touch with his grandson that day but he wasn’t home and when the answering machine picked up, he was greeted by a message left from his daughter Sue who had recently passed away. He hadn’t anticipated hearing the sound of his daughter’s voice again and the incident had temporarily froze him in time. He sat silently then for a few moments after hearing her voice in short reminisce of his lost daughter and shed some tears. The voice from the past had certainly taken him by surprise.

After he shared the incident with me he questioned whether or not the message was a good thing to keep on the machine or if he should speak to his grandsons about changing it. As I had never been faced with this type of dilemma, I told him that his grandsons may either not be aware of it or perhaps they may be and choose to leave it on until they are ready to change it;  a delicate subject at this time to bring up.

I found the whole incident haunting yet touching and I can’t even pretend to imagine what went through my husband’s mind when he was caught off guard at that moment. The incident did however bring to mind a beautiful article I had read a few months previous, written by my writer friend Elaine Mansfield who writes beautiful articles on the subject of grief and bereavement. Elaine wrote an article on a related topic when she was deciding what to do with her husband’s cellphone after her beloved husband had passed away

I don’t believe there is a right or wrong way to answer this question. Perhaps for some of us, the sound of a lost loved one’s voice is a comfort or for others it may just reinforce or reignite the grief process.


Waiting for a Call: Love, Loss, and Continuing Bonds – Elaine Mansfield

Elaine MansfieldReblogged from

Elaine is a most compassionate person and a most beautiful writer. She shares her grief of the deep loss of her beloved husband in a lot of her writing and in her sharing she extends her compassion and strength. Her words are eloquently written and the messages she conveys in her writing are deeply moving. I couldn’t help but read this with tears in my eyes, yet at the same time take in her beautiful message. – A Love Story

Posted on November 19, 2013 by Elaine Mansfield

via Waiting for a Call: Love, Loss, and Continuing Bonds – Elaine Mansfield.