Giving Thanks...

The abbreviated family had the opportunity to meet up with some rellies from the husband's side of the family recently. The Jamaican quarter includes many aunts and uncles, scattered about the globe usually only assembled for wedding and funerals, and rarely all together at the same time. Recently 'my favourite aunt' (technically she's only related through marriage so I shouldn't make such claims but she is) has been visiting from England. 

I adore this woman. 

She was an angel sent to gently guide my mother-in-law through her last days in a cancer-ridden body. She came and stayed with her and made her as comfortable as possible, she exuded such an intensely calm and loving persona we all felt safely wrapped in her arms and comforted. After witnessing and caring for my poor mother-in-law during her fight against such a relentless disease we all felt battle-worn and unprepared for the inevitable end. Nobody had the experience and confidence to be there 24/7 except Cynthia. She raised ten children and continued to work well into her retirement years. She raised geniuses, diplomats, leaders with a gentle hand and wise words. She dropped everything to come to Canada to be here for her dear 'Beanie', the tall lanky baby sister who was no longer strong enough to take care of herself (and reluctant to let her immediate family help her).

Aunt Cynthia is soft-spoken and was self-assured in her nursing duties, gently advising us how much, when and what our dear Claudine could handle. She possessed a true understanding of death and dying having worked in Palliative care for years and we let her lead us through the process, tripping and fumbling through the inevitable steps toward a loved ones' death. She cooked cod fish and akee, rice and peas and oatmeal but she cooked it just right. Whether it's the medicine or the cancer, Claudine's taste buds were the first to betray her and our attempts at cooking 'like home' were snubbed, Cynthia's were welcome. 

When Claudine left us, fighting death until her last breath, Cynthia took sotckm choosing the dress for her for the coffin, making sure she looked right. A job no one would ever embrace, she spared the family many of the decisions, working solely with my father-in-law to get him through that part of the process. She stayed until she felt she had done all she could, well after the service, well after the flowers began to dry up and the casserole dishes were piled up to return to their owners. She never shed a tear when we could see her. Her grief was private and profound. 

Ten years later, she's come back with her bear hugs and lovely laugh. She talks to you with words that will stay with you, meaningful always. We trust and adore her, hanging off her every word. She is a loving mother that we should all learn from.   She is a rare breed from an ancient time, she steps in when you need her for the most thankless job, performs it in the most dignified way and asks for nothing in return. 

We spent a couple of hours reminiscing -the twelve year old pretending not to be interested in our conversations- at the home of one of her brothers and his wife, (another aunt and uncle who are well into their 80's). At the end of our visit we join hands and are lead in a prayer of thanks for the visit and a request for safe travels after which Aunt Cynthia took both of the twelve year olds hands in hers, looked him in the eye and said, "Know that you are loved by all of us and we expect great things from you in the future." Never at a loss for words he replied, "I expect great things from me, too".

When we got home he was reflecting on the visit. He told me he thought the praying thing was cool and that he liked this Aunt Cynthia. I agreed. We don't stop and pray after we've spent time with people we love but what a lovely gesture that is. I think her words were profound and will never be forgotten by the12 year old. 

Her visit was another gift we will all cherish, a reminder of how important true love and family will always be.
Mar 11, 2012

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