Upon learning of my great-aunt’s death recently, yet she’d been gone for two years, I recalled my final visit with her.
I present a stream-of-consciousness, spontaneous recovery of this memory, which occurred in conversation with Andrei. His contributions are removed for privacy reasons, mine are mostly intact.
Monday, November 13th, 2017.
….yesterday. I remembered what she looked like yesterday.
When at the a cappella workshop, my last visit with her came to mind suddenly.
If she’s been dead for two years, which I confirmed outside Mother … then I saw her just before she died.
She … remember I said she was the one other Catholic on Mother’s side?
Last time I saw her, she was begging me. Begging me to get a rosary. To not forget what happened before, but not to blame myself for my godmother being chastised. And to remember God doesn’t hate nor despise me. That people are people. Humans can interpret God, but can’t be Him. So the ones who took God’s name and love and hurt me are just human. They’re not God. Because God doesn’t wish me to run into an abyss.
Form my own understanding while being respectful to the stories of others.
She must’ve died not long after I last saw her. I remember how she was. Laying bedridden, dressed in soft pinks and so happy. Playing some old Latin hymns on the radio and cassette tapes.
And she was so frail, wasting away by the Alzheimer’s. But she called me to her, said look how big I’ve grown from last she saw me. She doesn’t come to Canada, can only see me if I go to the Sister Isles.
Lifted that scrawny, wasted arm enough to introduce all the saints and pictures in her room, talking of them like as if they were her family and dearest friends.
She asked me to touch each one for her since she couldn’t get up, that it’d be too hard for me to bring each one to her bedside.
It was so bright in her room. The sun hit her so pretty.
Her face partly disfigured, one eye completely blind with the other swiftly on that way, but she was so beautiful.
When she was done telling me about her friends the saints, Mary her mother, Jesus her brother, Holy Spirit her comforter, and God her papa; she asked me to take the fragrant oil she’d been given from the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
She asked me to rub a drop, three, into her temples and across her forehead.
To do it slow that it could absorb, and she was praying something in Latin as I did so.
She went to sleep after. I sat there and watched her sleep. Then the sun set and I had to go back to where I was staying that night. This was in Trinidad.
And that was it. The last time I saw her.
I remember leaving the room and thinking, “She’s like a flower blossoming in God’s garden. A pretty pink peony unfurling in the white sheets as snow.”
More than a decade before she finally passed.
She remembered me. How did she remember me?
Didn’t even recognize Mother until her daughter explained to her who was the other lady.
But knew me on sight when I walked in her room … and she was nearly blind too.
I know my story. I have my voice by my choice.
I tell you this: Family are strangers who happen to be involved in your birth.
I’m going to pick up my rosary now, and smile for my great-aunt. Because that’s how I remember her most clearly.
A pink peony blossoming, unfurling in the snow of God’s garden….