Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Aunty Keala.

Yesterday, we received the news that my Aunty Keala passed away. 

It was a shock to me because it was so quick, but due to her suffering you can't help but be thankful that it didn't ravage her body any longer. I have so many thoughts, but I can't help but think of the way that I was so individually blessed throughout my day yesterday.
As soon as I heard the news, I left work because I knew my Mom would be at my Dad's treatments and I didn't want her to go through this horrific news alone.  I was worried if she'd be able to drive.  I showed up to my Dad's treatment center and her car was no where insight.  I called her, reached her vm and she called back a minute later.  She already heard the news and took a moment to mourn her sister.  My Mom has a unique way of dealing with death; we all deal with death differently.  Since she said she was alright, I decided to go visit the Buzz family.
The Buzz family means the world to me, I carry them in my heart.  I've mentioned them several times on my blog because I love them as my own family.  I've had the distinct pleasure of watching their family grow and most recently grow again.  Since I was in the area, I swung by their house and held their beautiful baby boy.  It was heavenly.
It was a surreal moment.  I was on very different ends of life; one that ended and one that was barely beginning.  It really affected my heart, yesterday.  It was a beautiful experience, one of many that I was going to have yesterday.  I loved holding that Buzz baby.  It was cool that I got to watch him for a bit yesterday as Reed ran out to go get the rest of the kids.  She told me that I was his first babysitter, just like I was her oldest/twins' first babysitter.  I liked that.  It was a lovely break from mourning.
When I left the Buzz family, I decided it was time to go check in on my Mom who would have finally been home with my Dad.  As I neared their exit, I was on the phone with my sister and we both decided it would be best to check in on my cousin Fray to see if he and his family needed dinner.  As I pulled up to their home, I saw a van also pulling up and thought I had picked the wrong moment to visit them.  As Fray's wife, Holly greeted me at the door she asked if I wanted to spend some time with Aunty Keala.  I was highly confused. I didn't know what she meant.  Since my Aunt was on hospice care at my cousin's home, the funeral home was the van that just pulled up along with me. 
I'm not gonna lie, it was a different type of experience, one that I had never had before.  I'm glad I saw my Aunt 2 weeks ago, so I was somewhat prepared for the scene I was approaching.  I was physically hesitant.  I've only ever seen a dead body in a casket, this was entirely different.  When I walked in, she looked like she was only sleeping.  She looked so much like my Tutu (my grandmother, her mother).  There was a chair next to her hospital bed.  I assumed that this is where I was to sit.  I've always been extremely hesitant to place myself so close to the dead.  My Dad always "joked" that he would jump out of his casket to scare me when he died....not helpful, Dad.  She looked peaceful, almost like a slight smile on her slightly parted lips.  I tried to sit close. I tried to stand over her.  I tried to sit on the twin size bed that was parallel to her bed, just 3 feet away.  I finally sat on the chair, next to her bed, near her head.  I talked to her, but I didn't feel like I was talking to her.  I felt like I was talking to a shell of a body.  I know her spirit wasn't in there, I felt as though her spirit was on the foot of the bed, next to me.  I felt like she was watching me interact with her body, listening to the things I was saying to her, wanting to reassure me that she loved me and forgave me.  I told her that I loved her. I told her to say hi to Kuku and Tutu for me.  I told her that I was so sorry for the way I treated her during the summer when I ignored her at my Dad's rehab center.  I told her that I was only trying to protect my Dad and I know that she was only trying to serve my Mom. I always felt so awful for that and never had the chance to truly apologize for it.  I felt like she knew that I'm my Dad's daughter and she understood.  I felt a small tinge of forgiveness because she's known me all my life and knew how stubborn, how strong-willed I can be like my Dad.  In those few short minutes, I felt like she knew me and loved me for all of my strengths and for all of my shortcomings.  I was ok. 
I could hear the funeral home directors prepare my cousin for the next steps and I felt like my time with my Aunt was coming to a close.  It was a very personal, intimate moment.  One that I doubt that I will ever experience again.  I didn't quite say the words, goodbye.  I left her room and joined Fray's teenage daughter, Ipo on the couch.  When they rolled her body out, I was trying not to cry.  I didn't want to upset her.  It was hard.  I watched her rolled down the hall, through the living room, out the front window and finally placed into the van out the side window.  I couldn't handle it any longer.  I started to sob.  I thought of the family dynamics and how they would change. I thought about family gatherings that would no longer be the same.  I thought about Fray's older daughter who wasn't there and wished she could have been there with us in this very surreal, intimate moment. 
When my cousin came in, he went to my Aunt's room and I heard him wiping something up.  I walked back there and sincerely asked what I could do.  I looked around and knew that this would going to take me out of my comfort zone completely.  I had never felt this surge of service that I just wanted to give to him and his family, but most especially him.  We hugged again and I told him that the only thing that has been giving me peace today was the thought of her being reunited with her long departed husband, Fray's Dad who passed away close to 50 years before.  I didn't mean to make Fray tear up.  I couldn't help but be happy for my Aunt and her union with so many loved ones who had passed on before; my Tutu & Kuku, my Uncle Ned (her younger & only brother), my Uncle Walter (her brother-in-law), and all of her many cousins and friends. 
I left my cousin and Holly to have a moment to themselves.  I started to look at the photos in their living room.  When my cousin came out, we were sitting by ourselves and we started to talk about my Aunt's last day.  I tried to listen and grasp everything he said so I could hold onto it with all my heart.  I tried to listen as my sister would and prayed to know what I could offer in response.  I quickly thought of Job, from the Bible, after he lost everything and everyone he loved...
11 ¶Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him.
 12 And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven.
 13 So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.
I just wanted to be this for my cousin.  I just listened and in that moment, he looked so old to me.  Fray has always had a very fun loving, upbeat demeanor about him.  The weight of all of this aged him so much.  We talked for a little bit longer and then he was called away by multiple phone calls.  I ended up visiting with Holly and Ipo and I 'm glad I could be there for them too.  I just wanted to help lighten the air and change the topic of the day for a little bit.  A short while later their good friend and Relief Society president came over with dinner.  I ended up joining them for dinner.  There was a very palpable absence in their home.  I felt like I was intruding on their very personal and intimate evening, yet I felt I always have in their home.  I stayed for another hour and felt like it was time I needed to check in on my Mom. As I left, I hugged all of them and told my cousin to let me know how I could help for her services.  I told him that I would very much like to play the organ for her services. 
My home ward shared the same chapel as my Aunt & cousin's ward.  For a while, I was the organist for my ward as my Aunt as was the organist for hers. While I would play the postlude music at the close of my services, she would come up and sit next to me and we would chat for a little bit.  I didn't mind because she knew how to chat with me as I played the organ; yes/no questions, short stories that needed no verbal response.  Sometimes, she would just sit there and that was nice.  It was something that we had in common, one of the very few hobbies that we shared. 
I visited with my parents for a bit and surprisingly my Mom was ok.  I think she came to terms with it a while back.  I didn't stay long and told them that I would check in tomorrow.  When I was getting ready to leave, our family friend Edge came over from the chapel across the street to check in on my parents.  I stayed a bit longer and he said that he was on his way back to church.  I decided to go with him so I could practice the organ.  It had been so long since I played that organ my Aunt and I used to share.  I could feel her cheering me on.  No different than earlier times, I just couldn't see her but I could feel her presence and see her smile.  I could hear her giving me advice.  I could hear her tell me how much she liked to play the hymns starting at the beginning of the hymn book.  I know I wasn't alone in that chapel, last night.
As I got ready to leave, I walked out to the foyer where two missionaries were just getting ready to leave too.  I was so happy because I didn't want to walk alone in the dark to my car outside the church gates. They walked me to my car as they proceeded to walk on to their apartment.  I had a short friendly chat with one of the Elders who served close to my home in east county.  It was a welcomed distraction. 
Somehow, in my this very sad and grief filled day, I felt blessed by the very personal and individual blessings I had received all throughout my day. The timing of all of these events could only have come from the hand of God. How could I have shown up just moments before my Aunt's body was to be taken away?  How could the timing matched up so perfectly for me to practice the organ last night and then not have to walk alone in the dark?  I know God is so perfectly aware of our needs, our desires, our struggles, our sorrows. I have felt comforted by the Holy Ghost, in the sweet reassurance of families being reunited after this life.  God is very aware of us, very aware of me and I know He loves me. I have felt blessed in my moments of grief.  I know I'll see my Aunt again.  I hope she is talking story with all of our loved ones and enjoying her time with them. 
We will miss her immensely. 

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