Friday, March 2, 2007

the wheel of life

this week has been filled with much news of comings, anticipated comings, goings and anticipated goings from my kith and kin. some might say, nothing really profound there, that's life. but when we really think about life and death and all that's in between and our ability to brighten and lighten the world in the 'in between' it is really profound -- so profound it's downright humbling.

this week brought news of the deaths of two women named helen. the first was the death of a much beloved great aunt. her death marks the end of a generation in my extended family as she was the last person alive in my grandparent's generation.
she was my grandmam's baby sister, both sisters lived long lives - helen was 96 years and grandmam was fairly close to 100. we were all graced with having aunt helen in our lives. aunt helen never married and had no children of her own but in my family there are scores of 'kids,' ranging in age from 5 to 80 who all make claim to her and have had their lives enriched by her spirited nature, generous heart, doting nature and wicked sense of humor. aunt helen was one of those folks who could always find a way to 'reframe' the lemons life give you - when her beloved cat "angel" died and she was so, so sad but she knew couldn't talk the nursing home where she was living (with angel) into accepting a new cat, she adopted a 'stuffed cat.' I hope my kind, cat-loving, and wonderfully adorable aunt helen had a smooth passage to whatever lies beyond this circle. despite the major mobility issues caused by arthritis which eventually forced her to move out of her home and into a nursing facility, overall, she had done quite well. despite her age, her death wasn't an 'expected death,' and thus I feel a bit robbed of the chance for that last visit and hug.

the second helen who left 'this mortal coil' died early this morning. although she was not an aunt by ties of kinship, she and her husband were such close friends of my parents that my sibs and I called her and her husband by the revered titles of aunt and uncle. their children did the same for my parents. although I haven't seen this aunt helen and her husband in a long time my parents stayed in close contact with them and I always kept up on their news through my parents and by reading the wonderfully chatty holiday letter aunt helen would write each christmas. this 'aunt' helen's also had a long life but somehow as I get older and my parents celebrate 'milestone birthdays' - age is more and more a relative concept. I don't know exactly how old 'aunt helen' was only that she was years past her 80th birthday. I'm sad to say she did suffer terribly in this last year of her life with many health problems. it's terribly sad to know she is gone, but in some ways her death seems like it was a 'good death'(if there's such a thing). aunt helen's children, who all live thousands of miles from her and her husband, were all at her bedside - in her own home - and were able to spend quality time with her in her final days. along with family many, many close friends came to the house and said their goodbyes - this aunt helen's death was one of those 'expected deaths.'

in their own way each of these helens did 'the middle' so well - they brightened and lightened the lives of all they touched. I mourn their passing but find comfort in knowing that they both will live forever in the hearts of all of us that loved them.

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