Loss is a weird thing. Whether you expect it for years, or it happens overnight, it rams you square in the chest and takes your breath away with grief. When my sister died it all happened very suddenly. i got a call that she was in the hospital, and part of me thought it was another one of those things where she didn’t feel well but she would go home soon. She didn’t end up going home, instead dying of sepsis. It all felt very sudden and unexpected.
My aunt though, she called me two weeks before our wedding, and told me she wasn’t able to come. She had been sick for weeks, and finally saw a doctor, only to learn that it wasn’t the flu- it was lung cancer. Inoperable, incurable cancer. Suddenly she had a shelf life. She kept giving us estimates from her doctor- she ended up fighting death for two and a half years. Much longer than any of us expected. She and i have always had a special relationship. She was the judge who facilitated my adoption. She was the one who suggested i start a cafe as a child- named the Star Cafe- and encouraged me to follow my dreams. She was the one to inspire me to learn my first song on guitar, a song from a CD she had mailed me. She is the one who sat me down and told me how to handle the legal battle between my ex and i when he and i split up. She has always been real with me, always encouraged me to be myself and take care of myself. She is even who i named one of my children after.
We had two years of email exchange to make sure we both knew how we felt about each other. And yet, last night, seeing in my inbox that she was gone, the grief washed over me. She wasn’t going to reply to my latest message.
i cried for a little while. Mostly because she left behind her husband, who has been her life long companion in all things. The idea of being left alone like that, after all the adventures and memories, it shatters me. i cannot imagine what it would be like to lose Lars. In fact, one day i hope we go together, gently in our old age. Death terrifies me.
As i fell asleep last night, it popped into my head that she is the only person who ever nicknamed me. She called me bird. i never really knew why. She just always answered the phone cheerfully- hi bird!
There is a song by Alela Diane called Oh My Mama. In this song she sings:
Oh my Mama
She gave me these feathered breaths
Oh my Mama
She told me use your voice
My little bird
She said sing sing sing sing sing sing melodies
And she sang sang sang sang sang sang melodies
Our mamas aren’t the only ones who give us melodies to sing. Sometimes other people step in and grace us with their songs, with their influence. Sometimes they’re more effective than the mamas. i won’t hear my name as bird anymore, but my dear aunt lives on in her namesake, my small daughter, and in the fact that since my babies were born, i have called them my little birds.