Body-Mind-Spirit - Inspiration for Writers, Dreamers, and Seekers of Health & Happiness
Even during this pandemic, the weeks are passing quickly. My last round of classes is wrapping up, and I’m about to begin three new online writing circles. The work this season has been deeply moving, a reflection of our times. I’d like to share many amazing pieces with you and I’m still considering Zoom salons for the future, but haven’t gotten there yet. For now I’d like to share one story that touched my heart, written by Carole Key, a new student.
Prompt: It never ceases to surprise me.
It never ceases to surprise me how things happen. Often not the way we had planned, or the way we would wish they would, or by coincidence, but just the way they were meant to happen. Other worldly? Maybe. Divine? Possibly. Who knows? But one thing I do know is that I am grateful to my writing group for the encouragement they gave me to send a piece I wrote last week in class to my aunt. What happened as a result of my sending what became a birthday letter to my beloved aunt surprised me.
I reworked the piece, added a pink rose border at the bottom because that’s my aunt’s favorite color and flower. I searched for just the right font, beautiful dropped caps, and elegant paper on which to print it. I wanted it to be as perfect for her as I could make it. This would be her ninety-third birthday, and this might just be the last birthday gift I would have the pleasure of giving her. I mailed the letter, along with a birthday card, and included a note that said, “My writing group encouraged me to send this to you. I hope you like it.”
Saturday morning the phone rang. It was her son, my cousin Michael. He told me that he and his brother Greg had been fighting with their mother. She needed to go to the hospital, but refused. They weren’t sure why. Maybe she thought the hospital couldn’t help her, or that she’d die there and she wanted to die at home. She was adamant about not going—until she received my letter.
A few hours later, Greg sent me a Facebook message continuing where Michael left off. “You know, Mom,” he said, “She may only be four-ten, but she is still a force. Shaking that gnarled, arthritic finger at us she said, ‘I am not going to the hospital. I am almost ninety-three years old and I can still make my own decisions. I can get help here.’” But she was having trouble breathing, was emaciated, and needed an IV. Apparently, right after she read my letter, my aunt got dressed and agreed to go to the hospital. My cousins were shocked, and convinced that my letter had changed her mind.
Michael, my strapping sixty-plus-year-old cousin, told me that my letter had made him and his brother cry. He said, “I am so glad you listened to the group and mailed it. Wow! I LOVE YOU! Boy what a letter! It was awesome, magnificent, unbelievable.”
Who knows what about my letter struck Aunt Millie in such a way that she changed her mind. I like to think it was the last paragraph where I talked about the two of us being tired but not yet used up. That we would rise again here or somewhere. Maybe it gave her permission, or peace. I’ll never know. What I do know is that my aunt and I have a special bond that extends beyond our physical distance, and it never ceases to surprise me the way things unfold.
They did what they could for her at the hospital and she was able to return home a couple days later.
Here is Carole’s letter to her aunt, which is now a eulogy, since her aunt passed peacefully away last Thursday.
Carole’s prompt: We are too tired to begin again.
We are too tired to begin again, my aunt and me. She, almost ninety-three, and me a bit younger. We have had such a strong bond all these years. When my relationship with my mom was rocky, as it often was, Aunt Millie would be there for me. When every other teen girl wore a bra and my mother wouldn’t get one for me, my aunt took me shopping for my first bra. Its name was “First Star,” which still makes us laugh every time we share this story. I will never forget how wearing that bra made me feel and how grateful I was to have an aunt who understood me.
My aunt married the love of her life, raised sons, and taught nursing at two universities. She retired at the age of eighty-six. She thought it was time for students to have a younger professor, and those long hours walking nursing students through rounds at the hospitals were beginning to be too much.
I too married the love of my life, helped raise two stepsons, and later retired from my job as a middle and elementary school principal to spend more time with my husband.
My mom has been gone fourteen years, but I still had my aunt until recently when her health declined, my dear aunt, to share the joys and cares that the world has thrown at us. It has been a tough ten years. Life has a way of throwing curves. Aunt Millie had two back surgeries in a year, from which, with hard work, she recovered, and now a narrowing of her aorta makes it difficult for her to breathe. I was my husband’s caregiver for ten years until his death from cancer over three years ago, and then became caregiver to my forty-two-year-old stepson who functions at the level of a seven-year-old. Through it all we have had each other, my feisty aunt and me. We’ve shared our joys, we’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve ranted, and we’ve shared our gratitude for all we have—especially each other.
And now we are too tired to begin again. Life has taken its toll. From this latest punch of her not being able to breathe, to get out and go, or to write her fiery letters to her Congressmen, I fear she is too tired to start again. It has become increasingly difficult for us to talk the way we always have. It is just too much of a strain with her shortness of breath. Even communicating by email is a struggle. We keep in touch (she lives three thousand miles away), but we fight the tiredness that sets in. How much longer? We don’t know. But we will always be here for one another no matter how tired we are. We count our blessings and reminisce, and yes, still boil with things happening in our world, such as ignorant people and poor leadership.
I too am tired and some days I’m not sure I will recover. But I’m not used up yet. I am in a renewal phase and like the phoenix, I’ll rise again. And my auntie will never be used up. She will rise again, if not here, somewhere. And I know I am so lucky that she has been such an important part of my life for so many years. We will always share a very special love, my incredible Aunt Millie and me.
Carole told me that sharing this letter with her aunt brought her a sense of peace that otherwise would not have been present with her aunt’s passing. She also said that she wouldn’t have written the letter if she hadn’t been in our writing circle. She expressed gratitude for having the space to write, and also to her fellow writers for encouraging her to send it. I think I can speak for everyone in the Monday writing circle when I say that we were all deeply moved by this story—and honored to have played a small part in it.