An Le
Living & Learning

Always Loved. Always Missed.

Last week my aunt passed away.  My aunt was one of the most liveliest women I knew.  She truly was the matriarch of the family.  I received a call from my cousin on Monday, November 8 telling me that my aunt was in critical condition and would possibly not be making it.  I immediately got frustrated wondering why I hadn’t heard anything from my own parents.  I felt like I was left out the loop.  I called my mom, usually my parents are not together during the daytime on weekdays and it just so happened that  my parents were together getting ready to head to lunch.  To my surprise I was the first person to let my parents know of my aunts critical condition.  That one phone call started a chain of phone tag between my uncles, cousins, parents, and myself.  Eventually we all got on the same page and I was told to head to Atlanta.

Going to Atlanta was surreal.  My aunt has been sick for a long eight years. It started with a stroke which left her bedridden and since then she has had a list of medical problems including kidney failure for the last six years.  Her life coming to an end made me think about the very beginning of her long struggle.

My aunt came down to visit with my older cousin and his wife.  We had a great weekend celebrating Labor day eating good, drinking good and having an overall great time together.  My aunt went home and continued her regular schedule including going to work. She had a headache she complained about and shortly after she collapsed at work.  She was admitted into the hospital where she fell into a coma.  After being in the coma for a while she woke up but was unable to talk.  She remained in the hospital for months and on Christmas Eve she spoke to my cousins.  I remember when my parents got the call with the news that she was able to talk, it topped every gift that year.  We came up to visit her and I was more grateful than words can explain.  The doctors told us the whole time that even if she were to make it out the coma she may not be there mentally and every time the doctors doubted her my aunt persevered and made it through.

As the summer neared my aunt went home.  My aunt was bedridden but a nurse came over twice a day to help.  My dad made the decision to send me to Atlanta to stay with my aunt since my cousin was pregnant.  That summer will be one that I will cherish forever.  My aunt who was once so full of life was forced to sit in a wheel chair and lay in her bed.  She hated it.  Everyday I aimed to make her smile at least once.  I helped do things for my aunt that I could personally only do for family.  I saw a side of my aunt that I knew none of my brothers or sister would ever see.  As much as I didn’t want to give up my summer that year looking back now I’m thankful my dad picked me.

Remembering different days and moments we shared brought smiles, tears, and a lump in my throat.  I hoped to myself that maybe this would be just like 8 years ago and she would pull through.  It is in moments like this that regret kicks in.  As much as I have tried to live my life with “No regrets” I found myself uttering the “what if” and “I wish.”  Nothing can change the past and you can only be so prepared for the future.  By the time I got to Atlanta my intermediate family left the hospital so I was told to just go to my aunts’ house for the night.  When I arrived there I was greeted by my family along with my uncles from Florida and New York.  We all went to sleep and at 5 my cousin called.  We raced to the hospital but we missed her by 15 minutes.

Walking into the hospital was hard for me to do.  In my head I knew she was gone but I was numb.  I almost did not believe it, none of it felt real.  There were different moments where I could feel the flood of tears rushing to my eyes but they would go just as quick as they came.  The doctors told us to wait a little bit before we could enter and see my aunt for the last time.  That waiting period was strange.  Looking around I remember seeing my cousins with blank expressions on their face.  When the doctor came out to tell us that we could go into my aunts room my mother and I were the only ones that were standing in the hallway so we ended up being the first ones in the room.

I walked in the room and saw my aunt laying there with her eyes closed and her arms to her side.  The nurses laid tissue boxes around her.  I sat down next to my aunt and held her hand.  My aunt had beautiful hands, I will never forget that.  Even with her being sick her nails always looked immaculate and as weak as she would be she always had the strength to squeeze my hand.  Sitting there I broke down.  Her hand was cold and there was no life in her.  I squeezed her hand waiting for her to squeeze back knowing that it wouldn’t happen but hoping that someway somehow what was happening was not real.  Slowly my uncle and cousins trickled in and I forced myself to let go.  I kissed her one last time like I always did and I walked out.

I will always cherish and carry the memories that I have of my aunt.  I know she is gone but I still forget she is not here.  Recently I was working and my boss said “Hey I heard your aunt died, Was that the one you took care of of?” That situation was a rude awakening.  Even scrolling through my phone it still says “Co Nam’s House” ( Aunts House).   It is selfish of me to feel that she should still be here.  I know wherever she is now she is happy and free.  I just miss her.  She will no longer be a phone call away.  With her gone I can’t just find out stories about my family, recipes for food, or any suggestions she had.  The simple and hard things that she was able to help  my family and I with will no longer be possible and that thought alone is scary. John Mayer said it best, “Don’t know how else to say it/Don’t want to see my parents go/
One generation’s length away/From fighting life out on my own”  I will miss her always.

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