Posts tagged death

To C

I have suffered another blow to the heart, a loss of a dear friend, C. I have known her since I was thirteen years old and she was just eight. Long before I dated her big brother, I cared for her and protected her. C looked at me as her big sister and me, as another little sister. C was the same age as my own beautiful sister.

C didn’t have an easy life. Her father had been extremely abusive and controlling though her mother left him when C was very young. She didn’t really remember her dad and mostly thought well of him. She heard the stories from her mom and brother but, it’s hard to not want the love of someone who is your parent, even when you know they’re a monster.
Though her mother left the abuse, she didn’t dare file for divorce or child support for fear he would kill her or take the children. She spent years hiding from the man until he had mellowed with age and gotten another wife. Contact was made but he refused to pay a dime for his children because she had taken them from him. Most times, he wouldn’t have anything to do with C or her brother. He especially seemed to dislike C.

There wasn’t much parenting in the household. C’s mother spent most of her waking hours working to pay rent, bills, and feed the children. I know for a fact, she didn’t sleep well and spent many nights pacing the floor when she wasn’t working one of her two or three jobs. C was mostly cared for by her brother and he wasn’t always gentle with her, having been abused himself. I recall sheltering C from her brother who had gone after her with a hammer while in a fit of anger over something she’d done. After that, she clung to me whenever I was around. I constantly soothed her brother’s anger over trifling childhood misdemeanours. He didn’t want to be a parent at twelve but what choice did they have?

I was a poor example to her, the same I as I was a poor example to my own sister. I lost touch with C for a few years after I did my own running away from family. We reconnected and I had been in contact with her for a long time now. I didn’t really get to talk to her mother much. When I lived again in my home town, she stayed overnight a few times. When I left again, we kept in touch via email and Facebook.

Her death was a shock. At age thirty-four, she died in her sleep. I found out, quite by accident. I happened to notice some pictures with her tagged in them on my main feed on Facebook. I opened them up to see how she was doing only to discover the pictures were of her memorial service. I kept saying, “No. No, this isn’t right. It’s not possible. It can’t be right. It just can’t be right.” I immediately messaged my sister to let her know. I called C’s mother the next morning. She kept apologizing for not being able to get a hold of myself or my sister. She doesn’t need to apologize. She has enough pain to deal with – does she need unnecessary guilt?

When I first starting writing to C again by email, she wrote about her grandmother’s death. She told me about how when her grandma was dying, C crawled into the bed with her and held her in her arms until grandma took her last breath. I thought she was so brave and compassionate to comfort her grandma like that. I don’t know many who would have. But now, all I can think is who held C when she was dying? Who showed C the comfort and compassion she showed her grandmother? Her husband left her and her young son a few years ago. I don’t even know if she was alone in the house or whether her four year old son was asleep in his room when she passed.

These things hurt me. I know C’s mother with care for her grandchild with all the love she has to give. C led a troubled life but she loved her son with everything she had. He was everything to her. He was her life. She would never have left him voluntarily. I remember little things – the freckles across her nose, her long hair, her laugh, her sense of humor, the love in her voice when she talked about her “lil Man”.

I don’t know how to say goodbye. I’m trying the best I can to let her go. I wish I could share my grief with my own sister but we are far apart in the world. It is times like this in which I acutely feel the distance. Email and phone don’t compensate for the lack of human touch. Today I have said my regrets to C, lit a candle in her memory and shared some of my pain and a little of her story with you.

Goodbye, Caro. You were my little sister and I love you. You deserved a better life and a longer one. I hope it is better where you are now.

In memory of C. I. R. : April 11, 1978 – Feb. 11, 2012

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Baking Bread And Memories

Recently, I started baking bread to help cut the cost of feeding a large family (there are six of us). I make four loaves at a time and they all love it. As I began the journey of this intimate way of looking after my family, it evoked deep memories of bread making with both my Mom and my dear great Aunt. The motions were familiar, even though I couldn’t say I actually remembered doing it.

My Auntie Flo died on Good Friday in 1988 and I was crushed, destroyed, devastated. I had been struggling with depression issues from fourteen years old and then, at sixteen, I had just had my first boyfriend break up with me when she was diagnosed with colon cancer. For my whole childhood, Auntie Flo had been my companion, my friend and the only adult I felt truly accepted me as me. I was always good enough for her. She never expected something from me. We spent many happy days together, baking, taking short walks in the sunshine, talking about life. She loved for me to play old songs on the piano and to hear me sing. I felt happy when I was with her.

She had lost much of her eyesight and much of the use of her legs from diabetes. She was hard of hearing too. And in the midst of all these things that could have made her into an angry, resentful old woman, she was the complete opposite. I never saw her without a beautiful smile. She sang while we worked around her little senior’s bachelor suite in the old folk’s complex. She never complained about hurts or disappointments. She listened to me. She cared about me.

I remember vividly being told she had passed. I knew she was sick. She had been carried out of her suite in a coma a few months before. I never visited her in the hospital which I deeply regret. My needle phobia was in full swing then and I was mortally afraid of hospitals, doctors and needles. So bad I couldn’t see a needle, say the word needle – even see a drawing of one – without going into a full blown panic attack. I was doing dishes at my best friend’s house. Her mother asked me to put down the plate I was drying and gently told me that Auntie Flo was gone. I think my heart broke. I remember utterly wrenching sobs being torn out the depths of my soul, just before we were to leave for church to sing for the Easter service. Her request was for me to play “How Great Thou Art” at her memorial service. I have no memory of that service or of playing the song there.

There are times when I talk to her, as she watches from Heaven. At least, I’d like to think that she looks down on me from time to time from the happiness and joy that surround her there. I tell her about things, about how my life is going, about how I can’t wait for her to meet my children. I think she’d love them.

The thing I remember doing the most with Auntie Flo was baking – cookies, cakes, squares, candy – we did it all! There is an old picture of her, my brother and me making cookies in my Mom’s kitchen. It is one of my favorite pictures of her. She has her back to the camera and I am bent over the table, both of us focused intently upon the cookies, while my brother watches. I am about six years old in this picture. To me, it symbolizes our unity of mind, our similarities, even though I am six and she is in her seventies. Our postures are the same, our focus is the same, and our enjoyment in creation is the same.
So now, as I once again bake bread on this day, I feel close to her. I sense her looking over my shoulder, cheering me on. Those batches of cookies and squares I make for the kids’ lunch treats bring me a peace and love that I imbue into the baking in turn. I show my love for my family and for the remembrance of my beautiful Auntie Flo.

We did it together. We did it with love.

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