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Adapting to a new environment is not something one can teach another, it’s something one must overcome themselves. However, with a loving family by your bedside, that strange unfamiliar environment can turn into something just like heaven. It was, at least, for my great aunt, as I learned the last few months of her life.
“Mary!” the lights flickered on and off. I could hear the unusual strain in my brother’s normally monotone voice. The lights flashed on and off as I stumbled out of the ever-to-comfortable mess of my bed.
“WHAT!” I grumbled, startled as I noticed the late hour of 1:24 on my clock radio. This was not like my brother, a stereotypical 17-year-old boy, to come crashing through the night and disturbing my peace.
“Charlotte fell,” he quivered. I can still feel the words piercing my heart to this day. I still remember the cringe on my face and the tears that couldn’t hold back anymore. I still have the ability to feel that pain. The pain of knowing that someone you love so much has been hurt. Not only that, but the fact that you don’t know what’s going to happen next. You don’t know exactly where they’re going to be in the next couple of hours.
This was more than a couple of hours. I had been awaken at 1 to come upstairs and make sure my little sister was taken care of as my parents stayed at the hospital. Sleep would be forgotten the next couple of days, I was sure of that. The one woman I had grown so close to, these short years I have lived, and now she was in pain. Enduring 3 hours of intensive surgery should have been more than enough for a 90-year-old woman to handle, but two more unexpected emergencies appeared almost cruel.
It may seem uncommon for teens in society today to spend their time with an elder, but for my brother and I, in had grown to normality. We’ve been born and raised by this woman. She has taught me everything I know today. When my parents were young and busy working overtime to support our new family, Charlotte took us in. Her quaint, classy, elegant manner always shined with everything she did. Everything she touched was blessed. Everyone she spoke to was left with a smile on their face.
Even in the hospital, Charlotte never lost her sense of bubbly humor,
“You know what?” she would ask the doctor as he flipped through his charts,
“What’s that?” he asked.
“I’m a movie star!” She’d yell out while putting on her shimmering sunglasses at night. Laughs were never absent at that hospital when Char stayed. Her perseverance and joy spread like an infection to all around her.
The last three months of her life were much harder on her, however. This little old, wise, woman hooked up on too many chords and pumps for one to function. I, too, was not my normal self. My daily routine changed juristically when studying for a math test turned into watching the local news with my great aunt. Or when doing my economics homework was replaced with my so-called “famous” impersonations of Lucy Ball.
Some of those days I will remember as a few of the best days of my life. Those few, short months of love and care was nothing compared to the affection and tenderness that Charlotte has given to me.
March 3, 2008. Charlotte passed away holding my hand and in the comfort of our home. My tears could have filled an ocean. In the time I held her, I could have mapped a million ways home. Being the only witness to Charlotte’s last breath, I will admit, was an overwhelming affair. On looking someone’s soul leave the earth is not something one can forget, but perhaps it was meant to be that way. I will not remember Charlotte as an IV dependant lady or a weak woman. She was strong, loving, and compassionate. Something I can only aspire to measure up to someday. So now, as I sit in her room, the same way it was left since she left, I have discovered something. She has not left me at all. For she is in my blood and veins. She is in my heart. She is in my name. There was a reason that my name is Mary-Charlotte, and for that I could not be more thankful.