“But what if you are already sixty, seventy years old, eighty, ninety? Let the thunder roll. You’ve got something to say. You are alive and you don’t know for how long. (None of us really knows for how long.) No matter your age there is a sense of urgency, to make life immediate and relevant.”
― Natalie Goldberg, Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir
Please, don't die with your story untold.
My mother is the third to the oldest of nine children, a large loving Irish Catholic brood, and with each passing year, we lose another one of the members that created the sense of belonging and love I feel in my bones.
My Aunt Delores, my mothers sister, passed away this week. The disease and medicine meant to heal her robbed her of ability to communicate in her final weeks and days, so I will do my best to honor her by telling you what I remember.
She was the first to welcome our family after our cross country travel each summer, the end of each trip illuminated by the lights of the Wyoming Valley in Northeastern Pennsylvania. A band of weary travelers who arrived in the dead of night to a home, already filled to the brim with family, that somehow always had room for one more, or eight in the case of our family.
She and my Uncle Mike, Michael, she called him, always had more than enough to share, whether that be a bed, sandwich, or beer. We are Irish, after all.
I remember her as one of the fancy aunts, always dressed to the nines and asking me how I was and listening for my answer. She and Uncle Mike were always in the center of things and support when things were lost - people most especially.
They were two people who always had reserves to give more, and they both gave until their last breath.
Delores was a woman married to a storyteller that was larger than life. Her story was of belonging. Her children and their families a testimony to her love of gathering.
In those short weeks each summer, she embodied the sense of connection that extended well beyond the walls of our Texas home into the traditions of Irish storytelling and the power of family.
Our matriarchs root us somehow, and their loss creates a shift. We care for them and mourn them while stepping gently into their shoes, hoping that we too will carry on the mission of belonging that can carry our children forward, taking solace that her weary travels have ended as she reconnects with the love of her life once again.