Grief ultimately teaches everyone the same lesson: to value the relationships, experiences, and time that you have in this present moment.—Dr. Sameet Kumar
On June 6 Tim, Belle, and I headed to the airport at 5:30am to catch a flight to San Antonio. My aunt had passed away unexpectedly after a one-month battle with leukemia and we were heading out for her memorial.
The day before we received the email from my uncle about her passing, I had been in my therapist’s office complaining of lethargy and heaviness. Yes, I’d just started a new anti-inflammatory for my shoulder and seemed to be having unusual side effects, but my therapist said, “This sounds like grief.”
I couldn’t have known my aunt would pass the next morning, but somehow I was already feeling myself immersed in the all-too-familiar feeling of grief.
When we arrived in Texas for our 30-hour jaunt, we headed for the Riverwalk to nosh on Tex-Mex and enjoy the setting. For many years Mom and I would drive eight hours to spend spring break with her childhood friend while hitting all the malls and spending time on the Riverwalk. Going straight there upon arrival felt like the right thing to do.
Next we headed to the hotel to get ready for the memorial and await Mom and Dad’s arrival. The memorial was beautiful—full of stories, photos, and family. It was also heart-wrenching.
Although we mainly saw each other at family reunions, funerals, and celebrations, my aunt and uncle had come to Colorado to visit when I lived there between college and DC in 1995-96. We met up for a lunch and I recall feeling so special—having adults visit!
Then in 2010, Tim and I stayed at their ranch in Hill Country during the summer Tranquilista book tour. My aunt was a gourmet cook and made a chili relleno that Tim still talks about. One afternoon we took chairs out to their creek and sat in the water chatting while minnows nibbled on our feet. I recall feeling so carefree (despite calling Mom every few minutes to check on our pug Louis who she was babysitting).
The last time I saw them was 2016 in Santa Fe. We both happened to be visiting at the same time and met up for an afternoon libation. How could I have known that would be my last time connecting with her? That’s the challenge, we never know.
After the memorial, Mom, Dad, Tim, Belle, and I headed out for more Tex-Mex where we snapped the photos with the angel wings. Apropos. The next day we met up with my mom’s childhood friend who now has dementia and lives with a full-time caretaker.
I hadn’t seen her since Gramma’s funeral in 2012. She always called me her “Most Precious” and I adored her. I mean, this woman took vacation time to haul Mom and I around huge Texas malls for an entire week. She’s basically a saint.
She was feisty, but sweet as ever and kept hitting my arm. Apparently it’s a gesture of affection and I didn’t mind at all. It was an honor to have time with her and her husband before hopping on a plane back to DC.
I’ve read that grief has a cumulative effect—each grief builds on previous ones. In 2012 when the losses began, I wrote this piece while reading Grieving Mindfully. It’s still my go-to and most recommended book on grief.
My time in Texas passed quickly and provided new opportunities to grieve—an aunt and a longtime family friend. I’m grateful for the chance to have had them both in my life and am continuously reminded of the preciousness of moments—experiences, relationships, the present. May we make the most of it. Bisous. x