Monday, June 20, 2011

Death and grief

Approximately one year ago one of my aunts died after a long and bravely fought battle with breast cancer. She went on chemo multiple times, and often it seemed she would beat it. Unfortunately, after being in remission, it returned, and spread throughout her body. Eventually, the doctors informed her and her family that it was terminal. She could fight it some more, and perhaps live a while longer . . . or not. She chose not. She felt better without treatment than she did with the treatment, and she didn't want her final days to be miserable. I cannot blame her at all, and might very well have made the same choice.

I was not able to be there at the end. I tried, but she died before I could get to her and the rest of my family. Still, she died with her closest brother and husband at her side, and my understanding is that she had a smile on her face, no pain, and went peacefully. She had accepted it.

I didn't know her well, but the days following still were not easy for me. I cried, a lot. I would be doing fine one moment, and the next I would remember something about her, and burst into tears. At one point, it just suddenly popped into my head that she was the first to ever use the phrase "29 forever" in my presence. I had asked her how old she was, because she seemed so young, and her response was "29 forever." I loved it. She told me her actual age after a moment, but I don't remember what it was, and don't care. I still sometimes use that phrase, now that I've passed my original 29th birthday more than once. Such a simple memory, but how could I not grieve at the loss of the one who gave it to me?

She was the joker in the family. I have other aunts and uncles, and all love to make each other laugh, but never was there so much laughter as when she was around. Whenever I saw her, she just seemed so vibrant, even with all her hair gone from the chemo. I miss her. I hardly ever saw her when she was alive, but now that I can never see her again, I miss her. Even now, I sometimes tear up when I think of her (such as right now).

Life moves on of course, and though there's still pain, it's a dull ache, no longer a crushing weight that makes breathing hard. Sometimes I don't want to remember, because it hurts, but that does nothing to honor her. And her memory deserves honoring. I miss you Naomi.

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