Open letter to my cousins:
When your mom passed away today, she left you orphans, like me. It doesn’t matter what age you are, it feels devastating, doesn’t it? And I know all the things you hear, and maybe even think, that she is no longer hurting, that she is no longer frightened, that she’s in a better place… none of it rings true when the only thing you feel is a big, empty hole in your heart.
Her sister, my mom, your Auntie Pat, passed away more than 30 years ago, making me an orphan. I got to calling your mom, Auntie Mom. She agreed to be my surrogate mom for the rest of her days, and that she did. It’s hard to share your mom with your siblings, let alone with your cousin, but you did that for me, letting her take one more under her wing. After all, we are family.
Auntie Mom and I wrote letters, we swapped stories. How she loved watching for the mailman to come striding up the driveway to her mailbox! I loved writing to her, even when I had nothing much to say, just to imagine how she waited and watched, eagerly snatching the letter from the mailman’s hand. It tickled me right down to my toes to imagine it over the years. Then, with your loving patience and guidance, in her later years, your mom became “tech savvy”, well, as savvy as you could expect. We began emailing! She didn’t like it as much as greeting the mailman and having a solid letter in her hand, but she did like the instant responses. She loved being able to write to me in the morning, and if she was lucky, she might have a reply the same day! Little did she know that I wrote back promptly most of the time because I too longed to see her letter in my mailbox. Then long after she couldn’t respond any more, I kept writing, knowing she would love the mail, even if she could no longer find the strength or inclination to write back.
It was obvious that every one of you loved and adored your mom. You all came together to make sure she could stay in her home as long as possible. She cherished her dignity and independence. And you, all working together, gave her that gift. As she became more frail, you shopped for her, cleaned her house, took her to medical appointments, kept her company, cooked her meals, helped her bathe. In fact, I’ve never seen a family come together as you have to make sure she was cared for every day of her life. I marveled at how you did that, unflinchingly. You did everything you could to give her a good life, a rich life. Your loving support was unfailing. Inspiring even.
I always admired you for growing up and staying in the same general vicinity during your adult lives. You lived close enough to visit, to keep physically in touch with one another, and to be close to your mom. You are unlike my siblings. We’re scattered across North America, like so many wayward seeds. My gypsy feet keep taking me to new places. We will never have what you have, with siblings within a few miles drive in any direction.
But this is a note of thank you for sharing your mom with me. I thank you for 30 years of allowing her to be my Auntie Mom. I treasured her from afar, and looked forward to her letters as much as she looked forward to mine. My Auntie Mom, your mom, was one in a million, and you graciously shared her with me all these years. I can never thank you enough for that.