It’s been a week of life perspective and reevaluation; loss does that to you. My Aunt Erma died a week ago today. I haven’t been able to escape the name this week, it’s all over the news and every time I hear it, it’s like a cruel reminder that she’s gone. Like some cosmic joke, as if the universe thinks we’d forget.
Losing someone is never easy. Even if you prepared for it and expected it, the abrupt force of letting go hits you like a mac truck. We weren’t prepared or expecting it, to be clear. It knocks the wind out of you and leaves you feeling like a shell of a person with nothing to fill you up but more pain. In all honesty, the moments of emptiness are preferable to feeling anything at all, especially in those first hours.
We’d lost touch over the years as a by product of growing up and moving away; starting our own families. But she was still my aunt and even when we hadn’t spoken in years, she showed up when it mattered, my bridal shower, wedding and baby shower. She’s been there since my first birthday.
Even when years passed that I hadn’t seen her face, I’d cling to the memories of my childhood. I was the lone niece in a sea of nephews. I was the little girl in the family and we shared special moments, my aunt Erma and I. She was my aunt I loved her, no amount of time can change that.
I was a child, even as an adult, in our relationship. I would always be her first niece. She never intruded or forced her way in, but she was always there and now she’s not. I guess we take for granted that people won’t always be there. There won’t always be time for reconciliation and homecomings. Sometimes people die and things go unsaid. We have to live with that.
I’m still trying to wrap my brain around what my uncle, cousins, and her grandchildren are going through. She was a true matriarch and loved her boys beyond anything else and it was reciprocated fully. She is gone and they remain, broken shells of who they were the day before. Fragile and empty, with pain filling up every nook and cranny of space of where she once resided.
My heart breaks for them. I know the look of loss. I’ve tasted it myself. I wanted to crawl into my own body and curl up and die. The world went on around me and it was unfathomable how people could continue to carry on with their lives when the unthinkable had just happened. But that is the way it goes. Loss is personal and profound and no two people feel it the same way.
I watched helplessly this past week as my family had to let go too soon. I saw the blank stares and confusion on the faces of those who loved her as the realization that she is no longer here, swept over them. I saw the wind almost knock them to their knees with that realization.
I learned another valuable lesson this week, funerals and mourning are for the living. When I was a child, funerals scared me to death. I hated them. The loss of a loved one, seeing those I love in such excruciating pain, seeing my relative dead in a casket but now, I know, it’s part of the letting go process. Without it, we would have no closure. Without it, the pain would be insurmountable.
We need this ceremony to let those left behind be comforted, coddled and loved to get through it. It’s hard. It can almost break you and you never fully recover from such a huge loss but you learn to survive it.
I watched my uncle and cousins ( grown men) brought to their knees from this loss. Our entire family rallied around them to lift them up with love and support because that is what family does. You put aside any petty qualms or past hurts and you just be there. Moments of normalcy began to seep through and in the next, the weight of the loss would be bearing down on all of us so heavily that we felt as if we all might be crushed by it.
It was a horrible situation but it served a purpose to remind us all just how important family is to all of us. There’s been check ins and phone calls and texts between all of us because if my aunt Erma’s death has taught us anything, it taught us that life is brief and we have to make the time to love those around us; to show them, not just think it.
You’ve heard the saying to one person you are the world? Well, while our lives may not feel as if they amount to much in the grand scheme of things…to one person, they could amount to everything. I think we take that for granted.
A life well lived and a life well loved is all any of us can hope for. The brokenness that remains behind is a testament to how we loved while we were alive.
That’s the way I survive loss, by remembering that it was a privilege to be able to love these people; to see them smile, hear them laugh, see the twinkle in their eyes when they were happy, hold their hand when they were sad. Life is fleeting and loss lingers so love so full on that it borders on crazy because there is no such thing as showing someone you love them too much.