I’ve never lost any very close family member in my life before.
When my grandfather died I was too young to understand what ‘dead’ meant exactly. I just saw my mother crying and sobbing, she lost her father. After years of a strained relationship and many false alarms one day he eventually died. Then there was my great uncle and other family members who I had only met a handful of times. By then I understood the separation that death brought and I cried but mostly because of the nature of finality of death. I lost an aunt once but it was different, I saw the cancer take over, i sat next to her in the hospital in Miami, I recited the 23rd Psalm on the hospital bed, I cried at her funeral and still remember the smell of that room. The few memories that I had of visiting her on the coast the few and far between times that I visited her before her illness were almost erased by those of cancer and illness. Death terrified me.
I’ve never lost any very close family member in my life before. And maybe today would have been the same but you didn’t let that happen. One day I came home and there was mail addressed to me: a congratulatory card concerning my recent graduation. Mom gave me your number and I called to say thank you. You were very brief on the phone but made sure that I knew that you loved me and that God was with us. At that point I was still figuring out who or what God was. I had a lot of questions. Then came a birthday card, then another birthday card, then a graduation card from when I finished form six. I still have them all, receiving cards are one of my favorite things. Brief cards, cards with long notes, funny cards, hand made cards, receiving cards bring me great joy. I have every card I’ve received besides two (that I regrettable left in Barbados) from the age of twelve or thirteen.
You knew I was your niece, you sought me out and you built a relationship between us. You did the ground work and every so often I’d call you between cards. I still hadn’t met you. The first time I met you was at a wedding and you demanded your attention wherever you were. You seemed rather bossy, yet kindhearted. I guess that made you a typical Rousseau (I somehow didn’t get that particular Rousseau trait). As far as I can remember, the next time that I saw you was at your husbands funeral, you were distraught and I genuinely didn’t think that you’d live much longer seeing that the love of your life was gone. You did though, because even though the love of your life was gone, you still had other loves, like your love of service for others especially children.
You were so determined to provide opportunities for all children, especially disadvantaged children. Somehow you got to pull me in- definitely not as much as you would have liked I’m sure but I came as often as I could have. I ended up in Port-of-Spain on Emancipation Day, I met my two little cousins who I would not have known otherwise, I went to Mandela tributes, I graciously refused to compose a poem to present but I took pictures instead, I ended up at UNESCO meetings sharing ideas and eating their food, I celebrated 101 years of the village that my Spanish great-great grandfather founded. I’m glad that you reached out and formed that relationship with me. I’m thankful for that example that you set.
We’re all going to die one day, that’s the long and short of it, that’s our destiny the moment that we’re born. We don’t know when very often and goodbyes are left unsaid, prayers left unfinished, stories left untold. Whatever we say, do or believe, that’s how our stories all end, with a flatline. I’m really thankful that I was able to know you, I’m thankful for what you have exposed me to, I’m thankful for your love and encouragement always. I know that you can’t read this but maybe you can, maybe you can’t, I don’t know how it works. I’m writing this because it’s just the way that I work through things, I write and I can’t write this on paper because my tears would soak the page. So I’m typing it. As I walked into the door from school and mom shared the bad news, I didn’t cry, I didn’t feel anything at all; surprised but that was about it. The second that i heard Raycy’s voice though, the film of shock dissipated then all of the pieces rearranged themselves and came together. Your heart stopped beating. Your soul left your body.
Is it a coincidence that today I fell asleep on that bench under a tree that I tried to call you from last week Thursday but I didn’t get through and I think I left a message but I can’t be sure. I can’t remember. I wasn’t even tired but I lay down there and had a really peaceful comfortable sleep, I actually made a mental note of how comfortable that rest was. When I got up to walk off I didn’t feel that good anymore but while I slept it felt great. They said that you died at six thirty this morning, that’s the exact time that I started my day. What a paradox; as I started my day, you ended your life.
I got to say goodbye though, seven months ago. Seven months ago on this exact date, the doctors said that you would be dead. It would have been a Thursday as well but no, you stuck around for seven more months. And by stuck around I don’t mean sat at home waiting to die; no, not you, you went back to your old ways of organizing and controlling albeit with a little less strength but with all the same will.
I cried in my bathroom after I spoke to you back in March, when I told you goodbye, thanking you and telling you that I loved you; yet you said that you’d be out soon and that you had to make some arrangements for somethings for us to do. Your words said that but your voice was so weak. I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore. I knew that you loved the Lord and that your husband had already gone to meet Him but when we lose one of ours, as inevitable as it is, the loss is so painful. I really thought that that was it.
I wrote this to a friend back then, “Umm my great aunt is quite ill and the doctors expected that she would have passed away sometime earlier this week but it’s Thursday and she’s still alive. I’ve only been in communication with her for the last three years and I’ve enjoyed her company. Her husband died a few like two I think years ago and she’s just been really heart broken since. Plus she’s being having heart attacks so her heart is really weak. She was really scared up to a few days ago about dying but she’s one of those people who love others so much that they are constantly serving others instead of really doing much for themselves. She really loves Jesus and little children. The priest gave her the seventh sacrament/last rights on Tuesday -a Catholic thing- she’s been calm since. It’s sad but I’m trying to just appreciate the time that we had together.”
I’m just really surprised, shocked, sad to an extent. You did your dues.
I loved you
I love you
and I will always love you.
Maybe it is because I didn’t share more time with you but I genuinely have not one bad thing to say about you, not one bad memory, not one flaw (besides being a typical Rousseau but I mean, that isn’t a flaw 😉 ). There aren’t many that I can say that about. You taught me something else too, you taught me that even if you can’t have biological children of your own, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have children. Instead, you now have a vast world of opportunities in which you can be a parent. Thank you.
We said our goodbyes already, seven months ago today to be exact, so instead I’ll just say this:
Thank you and I love you.
Go with God and I hope that our souls may one day rejoice in His heavenly place.
Rushell 🙂 ❤