January 3, 2016

Endings At the Beginning of the Year

Last night: a phone call from a relative - the kind of relative who is more an infrequent Facebook friend - revealed some bad news.

My aunt, cousin, and his two kids were in an auto accident. The kids were Ok. My cousin was airlifted to a local hospital.

My aunt....didn't make it.

Ironically, the aunt was my mom's younger - and remaining - sister. (Mom's youngest sister died several years ago). Telling Mom was tough - part of it was concern for her well-being (after all, I was starting to adjust to her post-surgery life), and another part was that I hated being the bearer of bad news. Especially that kind of bad news.

(When Dad died, many others did the hard work of making arrangements - most of what I did consisted of phone calls and feeling confused. Much of my initial experience of grief is a kind of numbness, a feeling of free fall and focus: knowing that the sadness and hurt will hit but never quite knowing when. So even though I didn't quite have the experience of being the "one in charge"....I really felt for my cousin's older brother (who is also my cousin) who had to actually be the one in charge).

My memories of my aunt were relatively pleasant - that's not meant as damning with faint praise. My aunt moved to Chicago to care for Mom pre-transplant, and she helped me with the move from St. Louis. (And trust me, I am so grateful for the decision to move back). We weren't close, but we got along relatively well - so much so that my only regret in my aunt's passing is that I owed her an apology for not calling her back during my mom's recent illness.

But the one lesson I can take to heart from this experience is simply this: for this year, I decided to make a greater effort to stay connected to people. I usually let relationships wither on the vine, and thought that this year, I could at least make an effort to not only reach out when I need support, but to also not take my relationships for granted. I could just as easily track down some people to send a casual e-mail as I could ask friends and family for their support through troubled times.

Despite what may happen in the next few days, I am slightly grateful for this reminder.

Even at such a cost.

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