Last night my sweet aunt Nan died. She was almost 90. Nan was the one I could call and discuss family politics with. She always had an answer to ponder and at times I think she knew her brother, my Dad, almost better than he knew himself. She was the one who nurtured my interest in genealogy and the records I am going through now are a result of her holding onto those pieces of family history that she believed could improve our future if we had access to the past. Yes, Aunt Nan was the family historian and was well suited for the job.
Aunt Nan was also a go-getter. She was practical, forthright, always willing to take your call, and smart as a whip. She was someone I admired immensely. And while the majority of her life was happy and enjoyable, the end was not, as she suffered from severe dementia for the past seven years or so.
Dementia is cruel. It is disheartening and robs its victims of their personalities. It steals away their memories and drops a steal-clad veil over what makes a person uniquely themselves. For years, Aunt Nan no longer knew her husband, her children, her life-long friends, and was unable to celebrate the births of her great-grandchildren in any sort of meaningful way. While she held a baby she had no idea who the baby belonged to. Even worse, she lost a child and never knew it. Aunt Nan became a shell of her former self. Her brain locked away while her body lingered on.
Unfortunately, a few years after Nan’s mind started shutting down, her husband, Uncle J, also began developing dementia. It was heartbreaking to see this former surgeon slowly begin to fade away into himself.My cousins now had two parents who needed round-the-clock care. I grieved for them understanding the difficulties of having two parents who were both incapacitated. To make matters worse, a doctor recently told the family that Aunt Nan could live another 10 years because she was as healthy as a horse.
Then three weeks ago my Uncle J died. It was expected for he was fading and rebounding for the past several weeks. He and Aunt Nan had been married 64 years. Thankfully, Nan didn’t know that J was gone…or did she?
It seems strange that a woman who just a few weeks ago was as healthy as a horse just up and dies. Rapidly. With only a few days notice. And it makes me wonder if love truly does transcend all. Is there some sort or life current that flows silently between long time lovers? Do we somehow “know” what we don’t? Can deep-seated love never be pulled out of you? It seems plausible. After all, I have many instances in my life where I knew something bad had happened to someone though I could not pick up on the particulars of what it was.
I think we all have invisible connections to those we love. Some of these “currents” are stronger than others but often, if we try, I think we can tap into them. Sometimes we get glimpses of our loved ones state of mind. We can “know” without “knowing.” I think that is what happened to Aunt Nan. Although her mind was locked up somehow love held the key which let her know that J was gone and she had to go too. She really had no other reason to “live” for her one true love was gone.
So to Aunt Nan and Uncle J… I send you my love. I thank you for your kind words and advice. I appreciate the things you taught me and I thank you, Uncle J, for saving my sister’s life. My greatest hope for the two of you is that there is a swimming pool you can frolic in throughout eternity and that your undying love for one another and your family remain strong.