This Friday marks the one year anniversary of my mother’s death. This past year I have made the 2 ½ hour drive to her grave on Mother’s Day, her birthday, Christmas and many times in between. I don’t plan to do this every year, as it seems a bit morbid, but the “first” of anything after the loss of your mother is eventful. My father is 87 years old, and lives in the small town where my mom is buried. I don’t ask him how often he visits her grave, but I would guess it is more often than he will say.
This Friday my husband and I already planned to be with my father, as is my sister from Phoenix. My mother’s only sister, Peggy also planned to come to my family’s home town to be with us Friday as well. The problem for my Aunt Peggy is that her husband who has with cancer, and has been dying for the past year. She received her husband’s diagnosis just a few months after her younger brother had died, and only weeks before her only sister passed away.
Paul, who was a strong, tall and rugged man and I had always had a relationship of banter. At the beginning of his illness he weighed around 235 pounds; he now weighs less than 130. From the time I was 11 years old, we would tease and joke with each other. Not over anything in particular, but pretty much everything; for no reason other than the both of us could take a joke. That continued into my adulthood, and up until he became sick and too weak for it to be fun.
When she told us that her husband had stopped his radiation therapy last week because he was only getting worse, we told her that we would come to Florida and be with Paul and her on Friday. My dad, my husband, my sister and I would drive the 3 hours to her hometown and visit her on the anniversary of her sister’s death. She told me Monday that she was happy that we were willing to do that. She also told me that Paul was in the hospital and his condition was on the decline. There were times in this past year that they had been hopeful of his recovery, but in recent weeks the news was grim.
I received a call earlier today from my Aunt Peggy telling me that Paul died this morning. My heart aches for Peggy. In the past 18 months, she has lost the brother with whom she was closest, and her only sister who had been both a sister and a mother to her. Now she has lost her husband of 44 years.
Tonight I will finish packing to head south tomorrow for our visit. Instead of visiting with my and uncle, we will be attending Paul’s funeral exactly one year to the day of my mother’s death. It wasn’t how we had planned to spend the first anniversary of my mother’s death, but we will spend it together nonetheless. Thinking of my aunt and her heartache has helped take my mind off of my own selfish feelings of grief. I can only imagine how it would feel; watching my husband die before me, and the helplessness that must accompany the sadness.
This Friday will not be about me, or about my reliving the morning of July 16, 2009. This Friday will be about my attempt to bring comfort to someone else. My grief will be redirected, away from myself for someone my mother dearly loved; her only sister.
Paul, may you rest in peace.
Copyright 2010: joyonboard
Photo: personal library; sunset, Orange Beach, AL