Visiting my family in San Diego was the most exciting part of my childhood that I always looked forward to doing. The moment I would step off the airplane and walk through the passenger boarding bridge, I could smell the California air and I knew I was “home.” I would completely release my life in Texas and it felt as if I was exactly where I belonged.
But, this trip… is exclusively different.
My heart is sinking into an abyss of despair.
I didn’t catch the smell of the air or feel the familiar comfort of being “home”- instead, I was overwhelmed with utter dread, as I felt my heart pounding a foreign rhythm of painful beats into my desolate thoughts.
This is the one thing I never wanted to be aquatinted with.
In fact, it’s the one thing nobody wants to be aquatinted with.
It’s the one thing that no living being should ever have to be forced to confront.
This visit won’t be filled with an abundance of joyous laughter or crammed days of memorable activities to complete together. There will be no happy smiles playing beneath the warm sun, no quick trips to Ralph’s to catch the start of the week’s best deals, no spontaneous midnight shopping trips to Kohl’s, or sleepless days from talking through the night.
I will no longer find the ever flow of my aunt’s tissues lying around her house and car.
She always had a stuffy nose.
The San Diego sun beams rays of gloom upon my soul and there’s a dreary overcast of sadness within me. My heart and mind are clouded by her sudden doom and my palms are flooded by the pouring tears of my mourning eyes.
It’s just to soon for her eminent demise.
This is so unbelievably dark and harrowing.
My body feels crushed by a heavy sense of sorrow, as it conquers my entire being with an obtrusive force of acceptance, that I don’t want to accept.
My heart is broken.
I couldn’t even try to calculate the amount of times I’ve actually gone to San Diego. I was in kindergarten when I flew for the first time to see them, as I was living in San Jose at the time. I vividly remember flying across the sunny state’s sky, completely alone and missing my family, yet filled with such elation knowing I’ll be seeing my aunt Stephanie soon.
She was the highlight of all my visits.
I was consumed by utter elation, where I would feel a sick sensation in my stomach, feeling like a thousand wild butterflies fluttering their wings within me.
The butterflies aren’t fluttering this time.
This feeling is a different kind of sickness; it’s deep into the pit of my being, where I could heave by the intense pressure from all the butterflies losing their wings and falling from grace.
My aunt Stephanie was always the one to greet me first and pick me up at the airport.
She was also the one to be with me last and drop me off.
She was so energetic and beautiful. A sense of pure rejuvenation would overcome me every time I saw her face driving up, as I stood outside the airport waiting for her arrival.
She won’t be there this time.
She’s the most thoughtful and generous woman I have ever known.
When I was younger, I always wanted to be with her, at her place. She’s the creative and silly aunt every child dreams to have. When I was about thirteen years old, I still clearly remember her being pregnant with her first born and I was staying the night with her. We just sat on her couch and talked for hours about all kinds of things. There is a specific image of her that continuously replays in my mind from that night. She stood up from sitting on the couch, to close her patio blinds, and she told me she was cold. And I remember being in total awe with her tiny frame carrying her baby.
She was even adorable and gorgeous while pregnant.
I can go on forever sharing all the special and fond memories with her.
She was also very stubborn.
My mother told me she was even extremely stubborn as a child.
She almost died giving birth to her son. She developed a serious heart condition and the doctor told her if she had another child it would kill her.
Yet, she wanted a girl and wasn’t going to give up, so she had another baby anyway.
She eventually had the daughter she so desperately yearned for, and incredibly, she survived.
There will be no more new memories to create with her. This trip isn’t for us to get a season pass to Sea World to take her kids once a week, to play Phase-10 and UNO, to walk along and the beaches and play in the sand, or spend time at Sea Port Village.
It’s to say my last goodbye…my last hello, give her my last hug…my last kiss.
Its just unfathomable.
It’s unreal to see her immobile, lying in a hospital bed.
She’s just laying there…
She lost her ability to see.
Then, lost her ability to live.
She looks like sleeping beauty waiting for a kiss from her prince… But he kisses her every day.
She isn’t waking up!??
Why the hell isn’t she waking up???
Although she was verbally unresponsive, she could still communicate with small movements. I clutched her delicate hand and she gripped my hand so tightly, not letting it go.
I wish she would never let go.
How is this possible?
She always seemed so young and vibrant, looking half her age.
She’s the youngest of seven, with a twin, yet became the first one to leave this world behind.
My mother laid beside her in the bed, as she held her for the very last time. She changed her diapers and played a huge part in her upbringing. Honestly, I don’t ever want to feel, or even attempt to understand the pain of losing a sibling.
Her twin brother sat beside her, crying out, as he held her hands pleading with her to keep fighting…. Then he looked over to me saying over and over, “this is my half..”
This is an inescapable nightmare.
There was a part of me that wished I never saw her in such an awful state.
Just thinking of the words makes me want to vomit them out of my thoughts and scream!
The cancer metastasized to her little brain.
It doesn’t feel real.
This can’t be real.
Leptomeningeal carcinomatosis took my aunts precious life. It’s still difficult to fully understand the mental and physical deterioration that she went through.
Cancer is the master of destruction and a hideous form of life, that no person should ever have to endure.
I reached to my heart and rummaged through my mind, desperately trying to find the handbook to life.
Where the heck is it?
There isn’t anything taught or explained on how to grasp death!
There are no words of advice to help process or accept the concept of dying.
“Time heals all wounds” couldn’t even come close to cure the bleakness death brings to the heart.
The passing of time only helps with the adjust to life without them.
It will always be there- a lingering hollow void will always remain, as a constant reminder that your loved one is forever gone. It’s a lifelong heart wrenching ache.
It’s against everything that’s human. It defies the design in our natural grain for survival and desire to live.
It’s entirely unnatural.
It’s a cost we must pay to live.
But, it doesn’t make it natural.
I will always miss her:
her laugh, her homemade smoothies, her life lessons on saving money and cutting coupons, her little duck walk, seeing her eating yogurt samples at my other aunts yogurt shop, her little garden vegetables, and her creative mind.
We did so much together when I would visit. During a conversation with her over the phone, she asked about my skin and expressed how sorry she was that I was going through all of it. Right when she said that, I began crying so hard while trying to hide it from her to say “my skin pales in comparison to what your going through and the last thing I care about is my skin right now.” I began to realize that she wanted to have a normal conversation with me, instead of it being all about her health.
It was so incredibly difficult to act as if everything was normal, but I did it for her, so we talked about things we did when I went out there, but she couldn’t remember me ever staying out there for the summer.
That ripped my heart out.
Sadly, I didn’t know at the time, but that was the last normal conversation I was able to have with her.
I couldn’t believe how thoughtful she still was when her life was at the end.
Also, she expressed how she was ok with dying and that she felt ready. It gave me a small sense of comfort in knowing that she felt content with it, but I believe she was only ready because of everything she went through.
San Diego will never be the same.
She always cried when she dropped me off at the airport and I would pick her up and squeeze her to reassure her, “I will see you again soon.”
But here I am, crying now for her.
I can’t reassure her I’ll see her soon.
For I will never see her again.
She will never take up space among the world.
She won’t speed walk down store isles anymore.
I’ll never hear her sniffling again.
She’ll never be able to share an embarrassing moment she had.
We’ll never laugh together again.
I’ll never see her cry again.
I’ll never see her upset again.
I’ll never get to taste the vegetables from her garden, especially the little cucumbers she once saved for me.
I’ll never see her large coupon book again.
She’ll never again help me efficiently pack my suitcase, as she filled it with all kinds of items to take home with me.
This shouldn’t be a part of life.
As we witnessed the slow and agonizing progression of her death, a lady at the hospital came in the room and suggested we have a “celebration of life” at the hospital, to help with the pain of losing her. I became dizzy into a strange confusion, as her blurred words penetrated into my brain.
A celebration of what?
Did I miss something?
At what point did society become so backwards?
Ever since I first heard this “new form of mourning” to have a “celebration of life” when someone dies, I thought it to be absolutely bizarre. But, at that point, I never loss someone close to me, so I tried to understand it and accept that it was just a way to help people cope with losing a loved one. So, who was I to pass judgment, especially towards something I had not yet experienced?
Though, I could not make any sense in the logic of its creation.
Unfortunately, I am now in the position of losing a loved one.
Yet, the thought of celebrating her life and having a “celebration” at the hospital, as her skeletal frame laid there, completely deteriorating… seemed completely contradictory to what I was feeling.
I felt like I was in Huxley’s “Brave New World,” and it’s terrifying. It seems there has been a push to create a dystopian society, like we are being taught to not grieve or mourn, but to celebrate instead.
I cannot conceive the notion of celebrating during such a dark time.
I’m haunted by the idea, that we are being encouraged to not mourn, but instead celebrate. It’s absolutely absurd.
It seems so disrespectful and disconnected from the person who died.
Also, if I’m not mistaken, isn’t celebrating our birthday ever year a celebration of our life?
That’s life, and indeed something of value to celebrate, that God gave us another year to be alive. So, how can someone dying possibly be a reason to celebrate their life?
I could never justify this concept, as it makes no sense.
I don’t have a personal or valuable lesson to share that I learned from her death.
There is no happy ending to this story and this part of life offers no gleam of hope
But, to every person who has loss a loved one, I am so sorry.
Most importantly, mourn them.
Don’t avoid feeling the pain of their loss.
Confront the pain, learn to accept it, and go through all the emotions grief brings. No matter how many times you go through the cycle of grief, I believe it’s important you allow yourself to experience it’s authenticity.
Acceptance is vital to moving forward.
The more you escape it’s agony, the worse it will be later.
My aunt’s death was so vile and it left an inexplicable pain, but she’s left a beautiful imprint on my heart that I’ll never forget.
I would prefer to feel this kind of pain and loss, then to feel nothing at all.
Until next time,
Please don’t celebrate my life when I die.
I’ll be dead.
There will be no life left to celebrate.