Crumbling Rock

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I never knew she was slowly crumbling, coming apart at the seams like a pair of worn out jeans. She had been like a rock; strong and unbreakable for so many years. Even though she was a tiny, stout lady in her late seventies, she was full off drive, spunk, and zest all mixed with a little bit of a punch and lots of love. The way the sunlight hit her hair, made it shimmer the way the sun plays on a lake when it goes down. It was a soft gray, almost white colored hair. Her name was Phyllis Ellen Ingram C. She was not just my great aunt; but she was also the foundation that I built my life on. She was always there for me, whether she was the shoulder that I cried on or the person that showed me the right path to take in my lifetime. I was never pushed or pulled in a certain direction by her. She simple held my hand to comfort me, to show that she was there to help pull me back to my feet when I would fall or stumble.

The common ice breaking conversation starter, “How was your day at school?” was never that with her. She always meant it and you could tell it by her warm, thick, genuine Vermont accent and the way words just seemed to role effortlessly off her tongue. She was the cement that held me together when I was emotionally and physically unstable. What started as her just feeling under the weather slowly turned for the worse… to the point of no return. Her strength was quickly fading as if it was being drained from her body, a little more being lost day by day. It was as if some type of monster took her away from me, away from everyone. It all happened so fast, we never had a chance to stop and catch our breath, let alone stop to hold her hand.

To this day I don’t know much about what truly happened. All I really know is that she had been diagnosed with cancer. If it is ever spoken about, it is said in a whisper or a low murmur between two people. I didn’t know how long her battle was, or why she decided to live the rest of her life the way she had. Was it because I was so young at the time or was it that my parents just wanted to protect me? I don’t know, and I am not sure if I ever will. All I knew was that losing her hurt me to such a great extent that at times I could have sworn someone had been placing large stones on my chest, slowly crushing me and cutting off all oxygen.

I never fully understood what cancer was, or why people just let it take my great aunt away. My aunt had always been powerful, both mentally and physically, so when we were told she had terminal cancer she knew she was going to be tough, not just for herself, but for everyone. We all knew she could endure pain, whether it was the ache of a pulled back or the hurt of losing a loved one, she never let anyone ever see her suffer. It was as if she wore a mask to disguise her pain, a mask that portrayed the happy and joyful side of her.

Eventually her strength started to dwindle, leaving her tired and weak. The cancer progressed and began to circulate throughout her body like a wildfire that refused to be extinguished. It was the same body I had hugged so many times. To this day I am uncertain of why she wouldn’t or couldn’t eat. All I know is that either the cancer had spread to her stomach so she wasn’t able to keep much food down, or she had just decided that it was her time to go. It was as if all food had lost its appeal and its once juicy and luscious taste. She had not given up on life, but just realized that she may not be able to beat this monster that had taken over her body. She had reached a challenging verdict in her life; she had opted out of having any medication or pain killers to help ease the pain to her slow and drawn out death.

In my eyes she was one of the strongest people I know. Growing up I want to be as strong as her, to have the will power and voice that she once had. Her voice was like warm maple syrup, sweet and perfect. It wasn’t sticky like the honey which captures your attention with great might. Her voice was runny, sugary, and pure; it had a demanding presence of its own. It didn’t steal your attention with force, yet its natural flawlessness demanded that you at least listen to the words. To me her voice was ideal. It was a quiet whisper that sang a melody of its own kind. It was slow, calming but it had a beat that was hypnotizing and addictive. She never backed down when death came, drawing her closer with his long, bony and frail finger. She never gave in, she was too strong. She stood staring back at him as if to challenge him, a challenge to the death.





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