R.I.P. Sweet Aunt Clara

AuntClara-800My mother’s younger sister, my beautiful aunt, died 10 days ago today.

After a long, painful battle with pancreatic cancer she finally let go. Her determination NOT to leave this world was unbelievable. For the longest time – even though she was sent home without hope of recovery – it seemed as though she refused to accept that she was going to die. I know she was afraid how her family would be able to manage without her and I think this continued to give her purpose. The strength of the human spirit is a truly amazing thing.

For the past year, my mother, my other aunt, her daughter, son, husband, my cousins and a host of other relatives were brought together in a common theme. To show love. To let Clara know how much she was loved and valued. To care for her, and serve her in her growing infirmity. Longstanding family grievances were put aside, and people were kinder and more loving to each other than they had been in years.

Funny, how watching someone waste away before your eyes can have that effect on your heart.

Clara weighed a scant more than our five-year old daughter in the end. I did not see her, but my mother said it was almost impossible to even imagine. It’s called catabolic wasting, a process which is not unlike your metabolism sort of in reverse. The cancer – ever so slowly – does an overthrow of every healthy, vital, blood ripe cell in your body. Like an evil microbe human takeover.

And the reality is that it could happen to any one of us. Tomorrow, ten years from now, next week, or if we’re lucky, when we’re 85 and looking for a change of scenery anyway. Scary thought.

And why do so many people still die of this horrible disease? We aren’t stupid. We already know that smoking is bad, exercise is good. We’ve pretty much figured out how to clone our species, nail serial killers on DNA evidence – years after the gruesome deeds – and can genetically modify the corn on the cob we eat. We can communicate multimedia information in virtual seconds to people all over globe, so why can’t we beat this ugly affliction?

Maybe the secret is in that genetically modified corn, or that hormone and antibiotic injected piece of meat. That pesticide covered apple or the chips you’re snacking on right now.

When’s the last time you ate a Cheezie? I know this sounds a bit random but, do you have any idea what’s in those things? Lots of unpronounceable contents can’t be good. Jett LOVES them. He would sustain life on hot dogs, Cheezies, and juice if I allowed it – that’s a lie. I do allow it sometimes. Like all moms do. It’s the wear you down/convenience factor.

JettCakeface-800I recently took a peek at birthday cakes in WalMart. Jett wanted a Spider-Man cake for his birthday and I wanted to see which supermarket bakery made the best one. However, when I saw the sprawling list of ingredients that made its way from the top, down the side and wrapped around the bottom of the plastic cake cover, I changed my mind. Contains maltodextrin, autolyzed this and that, phenylalanine, polysorbate 60, TBHQ, tartrazine … I almost felt sick. WalMart, strangely, has that effect….

What the heck is TBHQ anyway? I refuse to eat an acronym without question. And that’s what we’ve become. A society of people that will eat whatever the FDA says is okey-dokey. I mean, who decides how much of what won’t kill us? I’d like to know. We’ve got to be kidding ourselves to think that these mystery chemical additives aren’t messing with our body’s natural processes.

TBHQ. What if it stands for TOO BAD – HEINOUS QUALITY!

Hang on – I’ll google it and find out:

TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone). Five grams or more is fatal. Nice. Apparently you would need to eat about 1,500 McNuggets in one sitting to die, but still. That would kill anyone. It is a known carcinogen. Causes stomach tumors and DNA damage to lab animals in larger doses. Side effects on humans can be vomiting, delirium, and collapse. I searched my cupboards and found at least 5 things I have purchased recently that contain it. It is an approved, very common food preservative. Yikes.

FoodLabel-600I need to start reading labels and eat more things that grow in dirt. When the people you love most are really getting on your nerves, you need to imagine what life would be like without them around.

BirdFeeding-500A couple of days before her passing, my aunt and Clara’s daughter moved her bed under the picture window in the front room. Clara adored birds, and kept a variety of bird feeders hung in her backyard in anticipation of all the pretty spring creatures. She kept them topped up until she was no longer physically able. Apparently, after the bed was relocated, a multitude of songbirds appeared, not in the back, but in the trees outside the front window, where they ate and rejoiced. A colourful, song filled, unrehearsed show of appreciation for one captive audience member, who was unable to even lift her head from her pillow. I’m sure she was smiling on the inside.

The night of her death, she complained that the ‘lights’ were too bright – even after every light in the house was turned off to accommodate her. “The lights, they are so bright,” she said. A few hours later she asked her daughter to come close and hold her hand.
“I love you,” she whispered, then slipped away. My cousin said she felt her go.

BirdSnow-460I am so sad. We will all miss her so much. Sorry to go on like this, but maybe writing down my thoughts, whatever crazy stream of consciousness I am on tonight, is my way of dealing with things.

Good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. That’s life.

We are all going to die eventually. That’s the only thing we all really know. How we conduct ourselves in times of wealth and poverty, literal or emotional, is up to us.

I really believe, however, that there is a definite purpose to it all. I know that positive, loving output equals a happy heart. Accepting that you can’t change people and nobody’s perfect makes me have more grace for my own flaws.

Everyone has the ability to make a difference. In the world, or in someone’s life, in some small way. That much I’ve figured out – and so much that I haven’t.

The truth is that we’ll never quite figure it out. Not in our little nano-blip lifetime on earth. We are like dust mites and the Creator of the Universe is like the internet. Duh….

I must start working out.
I must stop eating Cheezies.
I must start doing something more worthwhile.

I think I’ll start by loving my kids just a little bit more.

If that’s even possible.

Yes. It is.

“But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.”

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