The very last words I heard her speak were, “I love you, baby.” That was just over a week ago. Those will be the last words I will ever hear my aunt speak. I cannot tell you how thankful I am those are the last word I heard from her and the very last words I spoke to her. There are no regrets there.
My beloved Aunt LaRue passed away shockingly suddenly early Saturday morning. I had been working on tagging photos Saturday while Tall & Handsome was outside mowing the yard. Many of the pictures were of my Aunt LaRue. I can’t tell you how many times I almost picked up the phone to call her and ask, “Aunt LaRue, where was this picture of you taken?” Had I done that there would have been no answer.
LaRue McGee Posey
As it was, my cousin called me Saturday evening about 6:30. I noticed the call was coming from my aunt’s house and at first thought it might be her. When I heard my cousin’s voice I knew something was wrong, but I had no idea how much my world was about to change and how broken my heart was about to become.
When Montee said, “Honey, I don’t know how to tell you this.” I replied with, “Montee, don’t give me any bad news.”
But, instinctively, I knew. As best and compassionately as she could, she broke the news. My precious aunt had slipped away early Saturday morning.
At that point, with T & H’s arms around me and him feeding me Kleenex, I would say I was ready to hire out as a professional mourner at funerals and wakes. There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Many of you may be taking pause right now thinking, “Isn’t she being a tad irreverent?”
Well, let me tell you something. Yes, we all grieve in many ways and sometimes dark humor can be part of that, but my Aunt LaRue was a feisty, funny, smart, bright and fun loving gal. There was nothing she liked better than a good laugh. That’s one thing I loved about her and enjoyed about her. She would totally understand what I’m saying and chuckle herself.
In many ways she was like a big sister (there were only 15 years between us in age, she was my mom’s baby sister). She was also my champion, confidant, traveling buddy, second mom, partner in fits of mirth and most of all, a best friend. We would talk for hours, yes, I said hours, on the phone at least once a week and many times more often, depending on what life was dishing out to each of us.
Back in the late 90s she went to the US Virgin Islands and San Antonio with me. There were other trips I wanted us to take. We didn’t have a chance to take those other trips. Life has a way of intervening in ways we wish it wouldn’t. We both began to feel the disabling effects of chronic autoimmune disorders that tend to cluster in our family. We both had so many similar illnesses it’s like we shadowed each other. That was one strong bonding component we shared. That’s one thing that made us comrades. There wasn’t sympathy between us…it was empathy.
There were other things that kept us from those other trips…divorce (mine) remarriage (mine) and several moves me and my Tall & Handsome made to relocated due to employment.
T & H’s elderly mom began to fail a few years ago so we went to Minnesota several times to see her. We spent her ninetieth birthday and Thanksgiving with her in Nov. 2009. She slipped away in March 2011 and I was thankful T & H had that time with her. I just had no idea my time with Aunt LaRue was dangerously approaching that narrowing point in the tunnel where only one passes through and leaves the rest of us behind heartbroken.
I do have great memories. From family holidays, visits and those trips we did take. One of my favorite memories from the Virgin Islands is sitting at our table at the outdoor restaurant of our hotel in St. Thomas. The hotel was perched high above Charlotte Amalie on a hillside overlooking the beautiful harbor. As we ate a world class dinner we watched the sunset and a large cruise ship set sail and disappear into the setting sun. Aunt LaRue was in heaven…and I was thrilled to share it with her.
In San Antonio we visited the Alamo, the Riverwalk and ventured out into the hill country where we came upon a state park. At first the park seemed unassuming…a few camp sites, picnic tables and rural peace and quiet. Exploring a little deeper we came upon a place to get out and walk around near what we considered a creek. There nesting in the branches of the trees and what looked like moss hanging from the trees were thousands of colorful butterflies. It was breathtaking. It was a living kaleidoscope.
That wasn’t our only encounter with Nature during that trip. We had gone out to San Antonio for my son’s graduation from basic training at Lackland Air Force Base. It was October and the temperatures had been running from pleasant to warm. Right before we start back home there was a Nor’easter that barreled into the area. We were ill prepared for it…we had mostly short sleeves tops and cloths for warmer weather. In no time the weather turned to fiercely cold with freezing rain that pierced your skin like little needles. We laughed clinging to each other and tried to run as one entity as we ran from our vehicle into a place to eat. We just couldn’t believe how cold we were and how badly our skin was stinging from cold, driving rain!
But, we shared laughter, secrets, recipes and so much more. I introduced her to one of our favorite authors, Ann Rule, who writes about procedural criminal stories with the emphasis on the victims’ story, especially women who are victims of violence and abuse. We both loved procedural crime shows, both fiction and non-fiction and sometime I think if we had been well and lived closer together we could have been amateur Agatha Christies. We both have an uncanny ability to size up a person’s personality.
I just never expected to lose my aunt this early in life. Even as sick as she was, she was an anchor and rock for me. She always seemed strong. But, she was taken as the sayings goes like a thief in the night or in the twinkling of an eye…she was here one day and devastatingly gone the next.
Diabetes was her killer. She had been diagnosed not too long ago. It seem like it’s not even been a year. It was a diagnosis that was hard for her to accept and like they say in football, almost a penalty like unfair piling on…one disorder, one more sickness too much to deal with.
She had told me a few time that “diabetes was licking her” or “getting the best” of her. I can recall a couple of time I call her and after we talked a little she’d tell me her sugar was over 500! I wish to God I had known then what I know now…sugar levels that high are indicators of impending diabetic coma. She also had been throwing up a lot and had been really sick at her stomach. Just the last time I talked to her she told me how much she had been throwing up and she could hardly eat without getting extremely sick, or as she put it, “as sick as a dog”. I was so use to us sharing a common rotten stomach and gastro problems I thought she was going through an extreme period with hers. Now, I know that vomiting and nausea are yet more indicators of impending diabetic coma.
When she got to the hospital, her sugar was between 1500 and 1600…
I have beat myself up too many times to count over the last week wondering what would have happened had I known those warning signs or if I had just called her one more time. I know in the end, I cannot think like that…it is just part of the grief process.
What I can do is this: I beseech you…if you have a loved one that lives with diabetes know the symptoms of impending diabetic coma or Ketoacidosis.
· Thirst and dry mouth
· Frequent urination
· High blood sugar
· High level of ketones in the urine
Other symptoms that began to appear:
· Constantly feeling tired
· Dry or flushed skin
· Nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain
· Breathing difficulties
· Fruity smelling breath
· Confusion and hard time concentrating
If you do suffer a loss understand there are stages of grief you will go through. There are different kinds of loss, too: death of a loved one, death of a pet, loss of a job, divorce and any other kind of life altering tragic change.
Some say there are 5 stages of grief . There is another school of thought that spells out 7 stages of grief. Dr. Kubler-Ross truncated the stages into some pretty simple efficient stages. And, then, there is the New Grief Stages. I tend to like this last model best because I like how it’s put best: Shock, Suffering and Recovery.
Until Recovery comes, you will loop through the other stages and maybe even experience them together…maybe many times over. No one can tell you when to “get over it” or when you should be better…it’s not their grief…but, at some point you will move on and heal…for yourself and in honor of the one you lost.
I cannot even tell you that I’m at any stage of recovery. I do know I’m trying to find some sense of reason…
I keep going back to the last words Aunt LaRue and I spoke to each other. Some people never even have that. I know it’s not logical, but I ache for one last conversation…one last word…one last sound of her voice…one last time to catch a whiff of her wonderful scent, she always smelt so good…
Aunt LaRue told me one time she wondered how many times I could have my heart broken and still live. She understood the trauma I have been through. I will admit to asking why many times since last week. Why did she have to leave me? I’m not angry at her. I know how sick she was and how bad she hurt and I know she could have taken a little bit better care of herself. I just wonder why…
The only answer I can wrap my head around is this: She knew how much I loved her and she knew I knew how much she love me…and, she knew I was married to a man that would not break my heart…
Bev & Aunt LaRue – Nov. 1984
© 2012 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.