You’re never prepared for the phone call that tells you someone you love has passed on.
I think my mom thought I was being purposely vacuous and a little bitchy, but when I said, “Wait, what? No – what? What?” over and over, I honestly could not wrap my brain around the news she had delivered.
“Jo, your Auntie Donna has passed away.”
What the hell? She wasn’t sick – I mean, not like really. She was doing fine. I talked to her a few times a couple weeks ago and mailed her a thank you card just afterward. It isn’t possible for a vital, wonderful woman like that to just be gone. Just like that. Suddenly. What the fuck?
But she is.
When she did not come upstairs for customary coffee, the folks she shares a home with went downstairs to check on her and could not resuscitate her. Mom said they tried, though they were sure at that point that she was gone. It reminded me instantly of how we tried to help dad, 17 years ago this week, but he was already gone.
Auntie Donna went peacefully, in her sleep, and is no longer suffering, no longer worried about anything, no longer stressed… she is at home with God and I should be joyous for her – I am> full of joy for her – but it hurts.
It hurts more than I thought it would.
It hurts, in a way, more than it did when my father died. Not really – that pain came later, and went bone deep – but still, it is visceral and raw. And it hurts.
I think part of it is selfish – that instant relief that it was Auntie Donna and not Mom, or Evie, or the new baby or Malakai. And I hate myself because yes, heartlessly and regardless for the pain my mother, Auntie Donna’s sons and grandchildren were in, that was one of my first thoughts.
But you know, when you’re seventeen and your daddy dies, it is hard, it is painful. But for yourself, you’re young and immortal and even though death is final (SO. Final.) it isn’t really real. Not as a real consequence for you.
But I’m thirty-four now. And by the entries on this blog, you know that I have tasted my own mortality. I have feared in earnest for my own life. I know that one day, I will fail to wake up… I know it in a way I never really understood at seventeen (and I’m the kind of hypochondriac who has always been worried that I’m about to drop dead!).
It has been more than 12 hours since I got that call.
I’m still hearing her voice in my head, calling me “Jos” the way she always did. A little raspy (smoking does that) and a little wry, she always had this sort of… witty twist to her voice. Sometimes I called her my Mean Auntie Donna, when I was little. I don’t remember why. Sometimes I wasn’t even sure she liked me (she did) and other times I knew she loved Evie more (she did, but I’m no longer bitter or anything – they were much closer).
But she was my Auntie Donna.
She was always there when I needed her. She taught me more than she probably ever knew about life and the finer things and how even smart women can make bad choices. She was a generous soul and she was always such a thoughtful gift giver. She was totally guileless at times, and other times (my Sweet 16, in particular) her poker face was a little too good.
I don’t know if she really believed in God, but I like to imagine that she’s happy now. Giving my Dad and her Dad, and her Mom, and oh gosh, so many people that we’ve mutually loved and lost, hugs for those of us she left behind.
I am babbling.
I shouldn’t write when things are so jumbled in my head, but… Auntie Donna, I love you. I always have, I always will, and I pray you are at peace now. Your death is pain for us, but we will meet again one day (God willing, not too soon).
Rest in Peace.
Note: Image is made of various snapshots of Aunt Donna by (friends & family) from SXC.hu