by - June 8, 2010

She died on a Monday but they didn't unplug her until early Thursday morning.  Her son was out of the country and they wanted his permission.  He told them to do it even though he couldn't be there.  He knew it would be better (and easier) that way.  So they just turned her off and that was that.  Alive.  Alive.  Alive.  Dead.  Just like that.

We saw her on her last good day.  It made me sad to see the way she lay so still, her body shrinking in on itself, suffocating amid machines that bipped and beeped.  It was the first time I'd seen her without her makeup and she was ancient.  She'd always been old.  There were pictures - dusty photographs in old albums - where she is bright eyed and young and elegant in silk headscarfs but this is not how I knew her.  She was already old and widowed and petulant when I was born.  I bent over her and kissed her dry cheek and touched the coarse white hair that stood against her satin pillowcase like a regimental soldier.  She moaned and I could see the veins beneath her skin - so thin, like paper.  She smelled of talcum powder.  I told her she looked gorgeous and she coughed up a laugh (a lung?).  "Yeah, right," she mumbled from her stroke-crippled mouth.  But I meant it because there was something in her eyes that was so beautiful.  So pure.  So unlike her character (which was bitter and lonely and forever jealous of her more glamorous sister, Rhena).

Life.  Life in it's purest, most natural form.  I could see it loving and hating my youth all at once.  I would have offered her some if she could have stomached it but she couldn't even take the pureed white fish or the melting orange ice cream that lay abandoned on the hospital tray.  That was her last good day.  Before we left I told her to ask them to shampoo her hair.  That was on Sunday.  She died the next day and it breaks my heart that she passed on with a dirty coif.

I found my dad's note as I rushed out the door: "Aunt Carol died this morning.  Funeral on Saturday."  I wiped a few tears as I drove down Highway 6 to find a gas station, hating myself for donating the desk she gave us to a special needs charity in Flesherton.   I hadn't even realized I loved her until she was gone.

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  1. Your writing often astonishes me, Alanna. I'd never seen this post before, I just stumbled on it today.

    Somehow every time I check one of your blogs, I keep scrolling through more.

    You're an incredible writer and I'm proud of you. I also think you've given a richer tribute to Carol than I ever gave.



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