Most people only see their extended family members at Christmas time or Thanksgiving. Some don’t see them until a family tragedy strikes. In other cases, a lot of people don’t see their extended family members at all.
With regards to my family, that’s different. I’m very close to my mom’s side of the family, especially my two aunts who live here in Toronto. I grew up with them; they babysat me; we travel together; go to church together, and talk often. I see my aunts on the same level as my mother, and that’s why this hurts so bad.
On February 6, one of my aunts (the matriarch of her siblings) was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, a rare one at that. This came as a shock to all of us because we took her to her doctor appointments, and there was no sign or mention of cancer. Before her diagnosis, she was living on her own, doing her thing; she was a true example of an independent woman living her best life. However, that late Sunday evening to this morning in the one o’clock hour, our whole lives changed.
I’ve been crying for the last month and a half, so much so that at one point, I thought I ran out of tears and became numb to what was happening around me. That didn’t last for long. I went from being a scared niece to being her President, as she liked to call me, right back to this sad little girl longing for her to wake up and come back.
Although this is a hurt like no other, I also learned a lot about myself at the same time. In the words of Whitney Houston, “I didn’t know my own strength.”
Since my aunt’s hospital visits until her passing, I have done and became so many things:
- I was her emergency contact
- I assisted in making executive decisions on her behalf
- I became her full-time caregiver (along with my mother and another aunt)
- I became an assistant nurse (who would’ve thought I could give needles… Surely NOT ME)
- I kept my family and her friends up to date with everything that was happening
- And unfortunately, I’m now planning her end of life arrangements
Right now, it feels like I’m operating on autopilot. On the one hand, my mind is in business mode, constantly thinking, “what’s going to happen next.” On the other hand, I’m emotional and mentally exhausted.
Many people looked at me these last couple of weeks and said, “I don’t know how you do it ?”; “You’re so strong!”; “How are you coping between your aunt and school?”
To be honest, most times, I didn’t know how I was functioning. Just like other things in my life, I had to do it. I loved my aunt like I loved my mother, so to help her was like second nature. Without a second thought or hesitation, I did all that I possibly could. I have no regrets about how things were handled in her last couple of weeks. I gave it my all and made sure she was comfortable and surrounded by love from those near and far. Also, thank God for technology, one of the best things that we did for her was video call as many family members as we could from all over so they could see her, she sees them, and they could tell each other how much they love one another.
My aunty was feisty and hot like a scotch bonnet pepper. She would set you straight on the Saturday and praise the Lord on Sunday. She was a true OG, and her presence will always be missed.
Love you Aunty Dulcie, to the MAX!
Update: watch my speech at my aunt’s funeral here