the beginning of goodbyes

May 5, 2019

My mother’s oldest sister passed away today. She is the first one of the nine siblings to leave us. My heart is a jumble of emotions.

I am happy for her. Really truly happy for her to be out of pain and to be able to spend time with her son, Gary, who passed away as a little boy. I tickled that she gets to be with her mama, by dear, dear grandma, and her father. We have a huge family of people that I know she is reuniting with and big hugs are being shared.

At the same time, there is something about her death I’m just not ready for. For a long time, our family has been a stable, steady force in my life. My aunts and uncles have always been there for me. Have always loved me. Have always listened. My childhood was surrounded by their tender care. We had frequent family gatherings at my grandparents’ home along with nearly constant interaction at our family business. If I ever needed to talk, one of them would listen.

Louise’s passing feels like the entering of a new era. One in which many people I care about are going to leave this sphere. One in which I will miss them fiercely. One in which I will have to figure out how to be a grown up, the grown up. I’m not ready for any of this. Which seems strange to me. I certainly would have thought that I would be fully into adulthood by now. But it just doesn’t feel like it. I am turning 45 on Tuesday and I still feel like a little kid in many ways.

Of my mother’s 38 first cousins, only two of them have passed away and those have both been recent deaths. This generation of relatives has been a force for good in my life and in the world my entire life. The thought of them leaving us takes my breath away. Literally. Gasping. I cannot imagine life here on earth without them.

And I really, really can’t imagine life without my mama. Taking care of her last month during her surgery was beautiful and emotionally gut-wrenching. The pain on her face brought me face to face with her mortality. She could die. She almost did die in the days following her surgery. And some day she will. And I don’t have any idea how I will live without this woman who has taught me how to live with courage and faith and forgiveness.

Several more of my aunts and uncles are in poor health and I don’t know how many more visits I will have with them. I am so not ready for any of this. I’ve never been good at goodbyes. Even temporary ones.

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