Wednesday, May 14, 2008

To Aunt Angel On What Would Have Been Her 50th Birthday

I wore my pink ribbon for her. Today which would have been her 50th birthday. To honor her life, to know that she isn't truly gone...

I met her on a beautiful, May afternoon in 1997 at a church function near their home. Thinking back on it, there certainly isn't a lovlier place to meet such a beautiful person. Angel, my husband's aunt and godmother, had just turned 39 and had been diagnosed with breast cancer in January. I'm sad that I never got to know the pre-cancer Angel since Handsome and I had only been dating 3 months before she was diagnosed.

On meeting her I was not only struck by what a beautiful woman she was physically, but spiritually as well. She was just one of those people you meet that just seem different from other people because of how genuinely good and nice and accepting they are.

When she talked to me that May day she genuinely wanted to get to know me, not because she was sizing me up as a mate for her godson, but because she was interested in making a new friend.

The day she died this January, my mother in law, Angel's sister, asked for us to find any pictures that we had of her so they could make posterboards that showed her life. As I searched thru all our photos from the last 11+ years, there were a few that really stuck out to me.

She was in several photos of our wedding day and while I love the one of her kissing Handsome after putting on his boutineer, one her and her husband of 18 years, made me want to cry because of how beautiful and healthy and happy she looked that day.

Our wedding was during one of her good spells and she was in charge of making sure everything was set up behind the scenes and that everyone was in the right place and going up the aisle at the right time. I remember coming in the back of the church, on my godfather's arm, and receiving her big hug and smiles and tears. She undoubtedly heard the conversation my Uncle had had with my father/his brother.

She, like so many others in Handsome's family, tried very hard not to let my immediate family ruin our wedding day. Her hug and kiss of support meant so much to me right before the doors of the church opened and I walked up the aisle. They gave me courage and reminded me that I was loved.

Another picture that really made me cry was Darling's first Thanksgiving. I took a picture of Angel holding 3 month old Darling and by the expressions on their faces, you could tell they were having a wonderful conversation. I remember when those pictures were developed, feeling sad and a little guilty that she never had the chance to have children of her own or to feel the incredible feeling of comfort and bonding that exists when you breastfeed your child. I felt sorry for her even though she never felt sorry for herself.

The third picture I had that really struck me was one I took exactly one week before she died. It was a photo of her surrounded by her three godchildren, Handsome, his brother and his cousin. When I saw that picture, I was reminded of how much she loved her family.

All of the photos at her funeral from when she was a little girl posing with her 2 big sisters, to seeing my own husband's life unfurl from a tiny baby at his baptism to his first communion, family vacations, graduations, weddings, etc..... Angel always lived life to the fullest. She never complained, she never let anybody see her beaten down, even if her body was ravaged after the latest round of chemo. She was so inspiring as a strong woman who accepted God's will cheerfully and never gave up.

The week before she died, on Dec. 30th, we all gathered at her house in St. Charles, MO. I had never seen her so weak. They had moved her bed downstairs, she was on oxygen, for the first time, she didn't wear her wig. She was letting everyone know that the time was coming for her to give up the fight. I know she wanted just one last Christmas with the family. To see everyone just one last time. She was so weak that it was hard for her to talk. Her husband had to help her walk, but she was so determined to be a part of the celebration. She mostly sat there quietly, watching her nieces, nephews, and grand-nieces and nephews entergetically enjoy Christmas and the family.

Jan. 2 she went to the doctor and they told her the last round of chemo didn't work and she had 1-2 months to live. She died 3 days later. She was done fighting. But, she had put up one hell of an inspiring fight.

Next to my grandmother's, hers was the hardest funeral I've ever attended. I just wanted to take her strong, stoic husband in my arms as he twisted his wedding band on his finger, tears welling up in his eyes that he just couldn't quite release, and tell him how proud I was of him for being so strong for her, for taking such wonderful, loving care of her. I wanted to tell him it's ok to cry, something he would never do in public.

It broke my heart to see Darling and her cousin, so full of life, playing in the church before the funeral, wearing their pink breast cancer ribbons, knowing their chances just increased of someday battling it, knowing they don't understand why everyone around them is so sad.

The night before we went to St. Louis, when Handsome, who took it SO hard, wasn't around, I sat Darling down and told her that Daddy was very sad and we had to give him extra hugs and kisses because Angel, his fairy godmother had to go away to heaven. Darling, without missing a beat, said, "Angel's going to be an angel with Baby Jesus and the Star." We had read the story of the Nativity during Christmas and that's when I just lost it. Out of the mouths of babes. I told her that was exactly right, we were going to have a going away party for Angel because she had a new job of being an angel. Everyone was going to be sad because she was gone, but it was an important job for her to do. I told her that we had an important job of giving lots of hugs to Daddy and Grandma this week. She understood and did a great job.

I feel so guilty that I didn't walk in more Relays for Life. I feel so bad that we didn't make it to St. Louis more often to see her, especially after Darling was born and it got harder for her to travel.

Angel is going to be missed so much....but she was such an inspiration to so many of us. Darling and I are going to plant a fairy garden for her this weekend with pink shasta daisies, her favorite...

We love you, Angel, please watch over us.....



Spyder said...

So sorry for your loss.