This morning I got the very sad news that a beloved aunt of my husband had died. Quite suddenly, or so it seems. Having come through an emergency operation quite well, we were hoping for a recovery to carry her that bit further. A recovery that would see her march on a little longer through life. Fearless, feisty as hell and brim-full of the old energy she exuded until roughly one year ago, when even a trip to her favourite market (something she’d enjoyed for years, together with my mom-in-law) was no longer on the cards.
Our hopes were not realised. It came as quite a shock.
I’ve had many shocks like this, in recent years. It never gets easier, because I feel things very deeply. Always have, probably always will. I can’t even say I’ve developed a ‘formula’ of sorts to deal with loss because every time is different from the time before. And hoping I’ll manage it better now is just a waste of energy, which ups the ante even more. Inside my head and heart.
Because heartache wants its moment, wants its ‘pound of flesh’ and if you turn your back on it, it merely doubles in strength, and bites twice as viciously.
When I first lived abroad, I realised there would be moments like this, in relation to my parents, my more elderly loved ones, at home. I dreaded them, but accepted their inevitability. They came, they went, we coped, together. My sister always with me, in spirit if not physical presence. The family I built here waiting in the wings – loving, holding, shushing, calming me. The friends I’ve made never far away.
More recently, it’s been members of my husband’s family we’ve had to lose. A cherished mother-in-law who took gentle care of me and loved, laughed with and at me, for many years. Aunts and uncles, whose sense of fun and mischief appealed to me, whose curiosity for my Irish mannerisms and heritage transcended boundaries and bonded us like childhood friends giggling over past memories.
I’ve been lucky to have found a place in the heart of such a family. Lucky to have enjoyed a home-from-home, as the years went by. But it makes it that bit harder to let go of someone we all love – again – and I’ve been dragging my heels about it, because I know the hurt it brings.
But the heartache wants its moment, so I’ll play by the rules and let myself be sad today for a special woman whose memory I’ll always hold dear.
Thank you and R.I.P., dear ‘Tante Leentje’.