My cousin Carole called me a few evenings ago. The new happenings in her life and the family were a mixed bag. A new grandson, a promotion at work. And something really big. Aunt Alice is dying. In the past, when I have written about Alice, I have simply referred to her as A or Aunt A. But she is leaving us now, and in fact may be gone as I write this, so I feel that it is okay for me to use her name now.
Alice was born in December 1925. Gram was nineteen years old, but this was her second pregnancy. The first baby was stillborn, so Alice was the oldest of Gram's three kids. It just struck me that the kids died in the reverse order of their birth - the youngest was the first to go. Alice is the last of Gram's children. There is only one of that generation remaining, Gram's daughter-in-law. She will be turning eighty soon, and I am certain that losing all of these people from her generation of the family she married into is devastating. She alone remains. She was a hopeful, fresh-faced bride in the 1950's, and has experienced births, marriages and divorces, and deaths. The young bride is now the last remaining soldier in the old guard. I feel for her, and deeply.
If my life was a Disney movie, Alice would, unfortunately, be the cruel queen or stepmother, or whatever. She is the one who beat me mercilessly. But even worse, she is the one who beat me down emotionally and spiritually. I still bear the scars, both physical and mental, of my life intersecting with hers. I imagine that some people with my history would be smug or happy at a time like this, but I am not. Life and Fate or Karma, or whatever you want to call it, has extracted the price for any and all things she ever did to me or my family. I do not celebrate this. Nobody should have to suffer and die slowly.
The person who was far more frightening to me during my childhood than any monster under the bed could ever have been, is fading from this life. I wish her a peaceful journey. I sit here and wonder what effect this will have on my personal journey, and I also worry about odd things. Should I go to the funeral? Do I dare risk a confrontation with the few family members who decided to hate me eternally at the time of Gram's death? I do not want to have any negative impact on them during their painful mourning. Yet a part of me secretly longs to go and see the family members that I not only loved but liked. I have pretty much decided that if I know about her funeral before it happens, I will stay away. Alice belongs to them more than me.
I also wonder what impact this is going to have on my personal growth and recovery. As I said, I believe that Alice has already paid the price for her actions. The rebuilding is up to me, and is my burden to bear. It is a slow and heavy process, and sometimes I feel like I am not equipped to handle it. But I will continue to do what I have done my entire life. I will take it day by day, with some bad moments and some lovely ones. I may be sitting watching tv or talking to someone, and a suppressed memory may blindside me. Or it may fill me with gladness and joy. Just like playing cards, you never know what you'll turn over next. It might be a rare happy memory of my father or mother. It might be something dreadful about my father or Alice or even Gram. With any luck, I can understand myself and my life better as the memories surface. They may be just what my spiritual garden needs to be able to bloom. Only time will tell.
So, Alice, a peaceful journey to you. May you end up in a place with easels and new canvases and brushes and every color of paint that you can imagine. May you see fields of flowers and sunsets and waves crashing against cliffs, and may they all be more beautiful than they could ever have been in your imagination. May there be happy and peaceful creatures who have no worries or pain. And may you capture them all in your art, as well as your heart. Farewell.