The right words to say (don’t exist)

My aunt is dying. She has a couple of months, maybe just a few weeks ahead of her. I ought to write her something, a sort of letter to say all she means to me. However every time I try to put down a few words, I am absolutely incapable to come up with anything decent. I am frozen in front of a white sheet of paper. I feel numb to the pain that will come when a few months later I will start grieving. The distance does not help you face bereavements, as you don’t realize in your every day life that the person is gone, since you did not see them regularly anyway. Maybe the ‘no more endlessly phone calls’ will make me materialize the shock of her absence.

If I could, I would tell her how furious I am with life: if she had received back only a quarter of what she had given to others, she would have been one of the happiest persons in the world. She is so generous and present and giving in the deepest way there is, emotionally, not just materially. Instead she was extremely unlucky all her existence. Being the last of 7 children (therefore very likely to be a bit neglected), it all started by getting pregnant at 15 in 1965, with a boyfriend that would become her husband only to start beating her up a few years later. When she tried to go back to her parents, they told her she needed to stay in her household as a good wife, they could do nothing for her. It was hard to get a divorce, since he was a policeman and no one would ever take a complain against a colleague. She finally managed to leave him when she was only 31 in the eighties and she started working hard to be financially independent, alas in a job environment that would psychologically kill her for just an average salary. She had love affairs since then but never found the man to spend the rest of her days with. The only one that could have been the love of her life (if only he had divorced his wife) died a few years ago from a heart attack that left her in shock, despite they had not been dating for years. She lost a goddaughter aged 11 some time ago, and her best friend (10 years younger than her) only last summer, both from cancer. Her son is divorced and he hardly speaks to his ex-wife, from whom she had 3 grandchildren. They are unfortunately turning into desperate youngsters, having been seriously emotionally abused by their mother when they were little and still nowadays. Therefore she does not even have a future generation to fill her with hope. The year after she finally retired in 2011 and was planning to enjoy life on her own, traveling and observing nature as she loves best, she was diagnosed with cancer and 5 years maximum left to live. She fought hard, with the chemo and all the downsides, since after a life like this, you can only turn into a fighter, an amazing one. But despite the many battles she won, doctors now say she won’t win the war. She didn’t have the lucky star of a winner from the start anyway, did she?

If I could, I would write to her I will never forget she taught me to swim when I was already 14 years old. My mother is terrified of water (and life in general), so she would forbid me to get into the sea, despite taking me to the beach every single summer day, year after year, just for me to watch other kids having fun in the waves knowing I would never be allowed to join them. My aunt did this for me: she taught me a skill to survive and gave me a moment of success in my solitary life of taboos alone with my extremely protective and anxious parents. She was the female role model I needed growing up, a strong and independent woman that would face any adversity; not the moaning weak woman that my mum tends to be, complaining of several conditions at once but never getting anything diagnosed (not that I wished her to be) and who has not even worked for the past 30 years.

If I could, I would apologize for all the times I called her needing to vent something when it was actually nothing at all compared to all she has been through, and still she would listen to me with care and understanding like a mother would. I keep on doing this even now that it’s the end: I call trying to stay positive and then I feel so depressed to hear her voice lower and lower every day that I am unable to sound joyful. I feel so powerless and unworthy that I end up outlining my little routine problems without wanting to. Instead she would always be so overjoyed for the good things that happened into my life, when I met my partner, when we got married, when we were expecting our first baby, when we delivered our second baby on our own, now that we are about to move into our first very own flat…

If I could, I would wish her to feel less pain possible and to quickly turn into a beautiful red leaf at falling; into a light worry free butterfly; into a precious stone of a monument; into the notes of a Beatles song recorded on a vinyl; into a constant wave, gently rhythmically falling on the shore, sure of its peaceful destiny. She loves nature more that she loves people (to no surprise), she ought to find serenity reunited to the universe that gave birth to her chaotic life from start to end.

There are so many good things happening in my life in the last few months that I don’t know how I should feel right now, happy for myself or sad that I will not share them with her for long… I keep myself busy to mend the pain, but now and then I wonder why nothing happens to you in ten years and then everything happens all at once? The good things, the bad ones! But this is once again all about me. What to say to her though? She is the one who is facing all of these for real… No, it’s pointless to even try hard, nothing I can think of merits to be said to her. So I keep on pushing it back until I will regret I said nothing at all. All I will be left with will be my mum, miserable as ever, for having lost her dearest little sister, and putting more pressure on to our relationship to fill in her new emptiness.


PS I wrote those words a few days ago and she has now been hospitalized. She is hoping to get home soon, she does not speak like she thinks it’s the end yet. Tonight I have decided to send her an e-mail to the address where I update her with pictures of our new place. It maybe too late if she never returns home, I hope it’s not. Hopefully you won’t mind me sharing it here (it’s in French though), since you don’t know me or her, and I don’t know you anyway, so this is just what a niece has to say to her aunt before she is gone.

Object: Les mots du soir

Bon soir tatie chérie,
Tu es encore a l’hôpital la, mais j’espère que tu seras chez toi très bientôt, aussi pour lire mon message 🙂 Je voulais te dire quelque petite chose que je ne réussi jamais a te dire par téléphone, peut-être aussi parce que ça c’est mon heure, quand les enfants sont couché et que la journée se termine: je reprend mon souffle, j’ai du temps pour penser a moi, je ne peut pas trop m’occuper du déménagement le soir…
Je voulait tout d’abord que tu saches que je n’oublierai jamais que tu m’a appris a nager. Tu es certainement mon modèle de femme, décidée, indépendante, battante. Je suis sûre que notre rapport aurait été par moment difficile si tu avait été ma mère mais je veux quand même me sentir (peut-être avec une pointe d’arrogance) un peu comme la fille que tu n’a pas eu, surtout ce weekend qu’on a passé ensemble a Enfleure [2008], j’espère que ça ne t’embête pas si je dis ça.
J’espère que tu a reçu de moi et de nous 4 en général au tant qu’on a reçu de toi. Tu es quelqu’un de très donnant, pas seulement matériellement, mais surtout émotionnellement. Mon mari et moi, nous nous souvenons souvent de la magnifique journée a Paris quand vous vous étiez connues pour la première fois [2005] et comment oublié le rêve des jardins de Versailles avec toi qui nous y a amenait et notre premier bébé encore dans mon ventre [2011]?!A ce propos il vient d’apprendre le concept du cœur qui bat et il pose plein de questions au sujet et il m’a dit l’autre jour que si il t’arrivait quelque chose il ne serait pas un peu triste pendant un petit peu de temps, il serait infiniment triste pour toujours.. Ah les enfants! Il voudrait que tu apprennes a faire des appels avec l’ordi comme avec ses grand-parents italiens car tu lui manque!
Il joue toujours beaucoup avec l’avion et la ferme Duplo (notre petite fille aussi d’ailleurs!) 🙂
Je voulais aussi te demander pardon pour toute les fois que je t’appelle pour me plaindre de quelque chose quand on sait bien toute les deux que c’est souvent pas important ou grave: ça doit pas être marrent d’écouter tout le temps les discours d’une insatisfaite de nature!
Je ne sais pas quand viendra ton heure mais je te souhaite de devenir quelque chose que tu aimerait tant: la lumière et la couleur du printemps, la légèreté d’un papillon sans souci, la pierre âgé d’un monument précieux, la vague rythmé qui arrive sur la plage, car tu es belle et pure comme toutes ces choses la.
J’ai hésité longtemps avant de pouvoir t’écrire tout ça mais je voulait que tu sache qu’on t’aime vraiment très fort et on pense a toi qui affronte et supporte ta maladie avec courage, dans tous les petites moments de notre vie, comme quand on voit tes belles serviettes dans nos nouvelles salles de bain, pour te donner un exemple!
On t’embrasse très fort, a bientôt,

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