I just returned home from Boston, visiting Auntie Donna who is fighting an aggressive form of cancer. It has brought back memories of her sister, my Mom, who died of cancer twenty-six years ago. Memories that have faded with time. These memories aren’t necessarily bad, I don’t want to forget, but now they hit me in the gut, an emotional jolt to the system. The doctors have exhausted all avenues, and all treatments on Auntie have stopped.
Like her sister, Auntie was determined to fulfil the trips she planned and dreamed of, and she was not going to be denied. Auntie and her husband Randy had planned to take a cruise to Alaska in August last year and her doctor was not happy with this. It took a lot convincing and then rearranging of her chemo but he finally relented. They stopped over for a day in Vancouver BC on the way home from Alaska. Helen and I drove from Seattle, picked them up and took a ferry over to Vancouver island. We spent the day touring around Victoria and it was great to spend time with them. Being on the opposite coast from my family, this was a rare treat for me.
Then over the winter Auntie was disappointed that her feet had swollen and she could not fit into her ski boots and would not be able to ski this season. (Seventy plus with aggressive cancer and she wanted to go skiing bad! That’s my Auntie!) However she did go on a quick trip to Saint Thomas over the winter to sail; Auntie and Randy had a sailboat for decades; she loves to sail.
So this last trip, I spent three wonderful days with Auntie in Boston. We took long walks and chatted about family stories and history which I have become obsessed with. It’s hard to express how much this meant to me to spend time with Auntie. It’s a strange contradiction; I’m sad because my auntie is so sick but it’s great to spend time with her and my family who I don’t see enough of.
My brother came up for the weekend too, and I haven’t seen him for over a year. We spent a few nights at our cousin Doug’s house and we reminisced late into the night about the stupid antics of our youth while going through photos from the past.
Whenever I spend time with Auntie, memories of my mom flood in. This time the memories were when Mom was sick and these memories are emotional, but of course I still like to think of my mother. Like my Mom, Auntie does not want people to fuss over her or to worry about her. And as family you don’t want to upset or stress Auntie, but deep inside you just want to let all emotions go. I remember Mom reassuring me and trying not to upset me when she was gravely ill.
My mom loved to travel too and did so until the end. She wanted to do one last road trip and went against doctors orders. She was determined. Mom and Pop drove through Canada to Quebec, but they had to cut it short by a few days. She passed shortly after returning home. But Mom made her last trip; she loved road trips.
I have always felt lucky that I was able tell mom everything I wanted to, before she passed.
As I left Auntie’s this week, I fought back tears back as I hugged her goodbye. With my voice cracking, I told her what she meant to me, what she meant to my Mom and to thank her for the kind words she has always had for me. It was hard to say goodbye and as I walked back to the car I ran back and gave her another quick hug.
I love you Auntie