Tomorrow. My family will say good-bye to a generous aunt, a beautiful daughter, a loving wife and a giving friend. Tomorrow. They will celebrate a life that was cut too short by the ravages of cancer. Tomorrow. We will try to carry on with a void that will be with us forever.
I’ll not be able to be with my family in Murfreesboro, Tennessee tomorrow. I had planned to be in my woods at the same time as the memorial service to say my own good-bye. Instead, I’ll be at another funeral. Autumn, the nine-month old daughter of my colleague Peter, died suddenly this week after a short illness. We’ll be gathering to support Peter and his family, and we’ll all be wondering the reasoning of such tragedy.
It’s been a year of death and wondering in my world. Doug’s mom and dad, Bette and Carl. My colleague, Bob. Benji’s brother and my friend, Michael. My colleague Malika’s husband, Hari. Autumn. My lovely auntie, LaSann. All ripped away from us swiftly and painfully. Yes, I know, this is the cycle of life. I know that we will all die, but that doesn’t make the pain go away. Instead, the pain makes one’s own life seem irrelevant and precious at the same time. Maybe that is our existential dilemma, in our everyday living and in the face of death. Who are we, and what does it matter?
Surely, we all matter to someone, and the ‘someones’ left behind when we die follow culturally-specific rituals to help ease the pain.
Part of the closure process in our society is the publishing and reading of ‘the obituary.’ Like a resume, or a FaceBook profile, bits and pieces of a person’s identity and life are articulated in the back pages of the local newspaper. Creepily, however, the cost of an obituary cuts the person’s life into a 250-word synopsis, unless the person is famous. My Aunt LaSann’s obituary contained more information about those of us who survive her than it did about her herself.
LaSann Wolf True wasn’t famous. She was an extraordinary ordinary person. Always quick to burst out laughing or to tell someone off, LaSann was real. She suffered Polio as a child, left home as a teenager, married four times, worked her butt off. She suffered from scleroderma and a broken heart. She was loved, respected and feared by her family. (You really didn’t want to make LaSann mad!) She celebrated life with a close circle of friends and family in North Dakota, Texas and Tennessee.
I will always remember Aunt LaSann as a beautiful woman who advised me early that a woman, in her words, “has to always take care of herself first.” She advised me to live large and to love even more. She had a faith in me that nobody else does or did. She was so proud of me. When I graduated with my PhD, she sent me an embroidered blanket as a symbolic gesture of us completing together something so difficult. Aunt LaSann made the blanket without finger tips. They had been removed one by one as the scleroderma swept through her body over the past twenty years.
I was fortunate enough to spend five glorious days with Auntie LaSann this summer. We laughed hard at memories of our summer together. We shook our heads at our ridiculous road trip to and from North Dakota and Tennessee. We cried about the inevitable end.
Tomorrow. I will remember the grace and strength LaSann Wolf True taught me in her dying. Tomorrow. I will celebrate my girlfriends in honour of the friendship LaSann and Chris shared. Tomorrow. I will think of my Mom and my other beautiful aunties whose hearts hurt because they are now four instead of five, and of my Grandma, who has to say good-bye to one of her daughters. Tomorrow. I will send love and serenity to my Uncle Charlie, whose life is forever changed.
As my family and Peter’s family go through our grieving processes tomorrow, I have one wish for you, dear readers. May you live life and love large. Today.