On Thursday, October 17th, I woke extra early, packed my car and hit the road by 6:30 a.m. It would take me four hours to get to my aunt, an extraordinary woman who lived in the Delhi Nursing Home, and I wanted to make the most of the short time we would have together.
I find it interesting the shifts I make as I travel my way towards the city of Toronto, knowing I am going to drive into and through a mass of humanity. It always strikes me the different energy feel when I arrive. On this journey the energy shift hit me at the En Route Service Centre in Vaughn where I couldn’t help but notice how few people smiled and their startled reactions when I genuinely smiled at them or held the door open or kindly let a person pass before me. I felt sad as I watched people move through their morning with little passion or animation or anything. I mean I do get that it was morning and the traffic was congested, but no sparkle, no chuckles with the person standing beside you, no walking with a smile simply because you walk with a smile. Everyone felt preoccupied, like his or her minds were everywhere else but here.
The lack of smiles and distracted expressions also hit me because I was going to visit the most inspirational woman in my life. A woman who lived with smiles, laughter and positivity. A woman who did not complain about her life or circumstance despite the fact that in her twenties she was shot and her fiancé killed by a spurned lover; despite the fact that she lived as a paraplegic for 65 years and was currently stuck in a nursing home because, at 93 years of age, she couldn’t live on her own any longer. I wanted to look around this privileged setting and see people smiling and laughing with their travel companions. I wanted to witness people holding the door open for others and greeting them and wishing them well on their travels. We are so fortunate to live here. We are so fortunate to walk. We are so fortunate to have the preoccupations of our choices – of our relationships, our jobs, our homes, our vehicles, our stuff.
I said a prayer as I got back in the car to continue my journey into the traffic and through the city because I wanted people to be focused and present as they were driving. I am grateful to write that I made it to my aunt safely. And we had a fantastic visit! The explosion of fireworks shooting from her eyes when she woke and saw me made up for all those lacking at the En Route Service Centre. We had lunch together. We laughed. We cried. We laughed some more. And as always, time flew as time does when you are connected and truly present in conversation.
I left, as always, with a heavy heart. It is difficult to leave such a vivacious woman in a place where only a few of the elderly are lucid; where the staff are doing their best, but the compassion fatigue evident; where very few family members go to visit; where she lies alone day in and day out. I was also grateful that I was gifted with another opportunity to visit my aunt, because for the past ten years, it is in the back of my mind when I leave that this might be the last one. I am both happy and sad to write that this was my last visit.
My aunt died five days later, the morning of October 22, and I am sure, she died at the time when I was running outside taking pictures of the stunning morning sky. I cried tears of sad joy when my mother told me of my aunt’s passing and the details leading to her death. She felt elated from my visit. The next day she won three games of bingo, the one activity she liked doing in the home. She had a good conversation with her sister and an hour later she had a stroke. Three days later she died.
I was the last person to see my aunt before her stroke. I smile aware that I am the person that brought joy to my aunt before she died. I smile because that is what two peas in a pod do for each other and we were two peas in a pod. I smile when people tell me how lucky I am and how timely my visit. And I appreciate my brother’s acknowledgement and words when he said, “Timely only happens to people who have the courage to hear the signs and make opportunities for timely to occur.”
I dedicate this blog to the most inspirational woman in my life, the woman who believed in me without condition, my Aunt Erna. May you rest in peace.
June 26, 1920 – October 22, 2013
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