The word “angel” always had a double meaning for me when I was growing up.
It didn’t just mean the figure from the heavens that watched over. It meant companionship, guardianship. It meant that I would never feel alone and that I always had somebody to share moments with.
Angelique, or Aunt Angel as I knew her, was a huge figure in my life. She was my mom’s very best friend. When my mom started to have children and build her family, Angel became our friend as well.
She would read me stories before bed even though she knew I was too old for them. She bought me my first bottle of perfume. She even took me to High School Musical On Ice because she knew I’d love it. Aunt Angel made me feel included and important and heard. She cared for all of my siblings in this way.
But there was a clock hanging over all of our heads, counting down. I was so busy enjoying the movies and playing games that I never saw that she was hurting. That she was deteriorating right before my eyes.
Angel had breast cancer. It’s hard to remember exactly when it all began. However, I can clearly remember the conversation I had with my older sister when we got home from visiting Angel in the hospice.
“A hospice is where you go near the end of your life,” She stated solemnly. “I heard mom and dad talking about it.”
I stared up at the ceiling in the dark, unable to control the whirlwind of thoughts in my head. The end? It couldn’t be the end.
But, one fateful day, my mother came home and called everybody into the kitchen. She broke down into tears as she told us that Angel passed away that day.
“It was peaceful,” She insisted.
I remember that although I was still entirely confused, I cried. I knew little about how it got this bad, but I knew that death was the end.
I remember how it felt seeing my mother cry for the first time. It was out of place, foreign to me. My mother was always the one that held it together for us.
I remember sitting there crying for hours with my sister. An entire box of tissues laid on our floor. I had never felt this low in my life.
I still remembered her, clear as day. Dead meant gone, and she was still here. Her apartment was still filled with penguin figurines and her kitchen was still a mess. There was still a gated pool that I spent countless hours in one summer. The dollar movie theater she took me to was still standing. The places and things remained, but the center of what made the memories wonderful was gone.
Although I didn’t know it then, this day marked a major turning point in my life towards appreciating every single day. There is no certainty that you will live a long healthy life.
Everybody dies, that’s just the truth of life, but that shouldn’t make you fear death. It should encourage you to live your life. My Aunt Angel’s life was cut short, but she lived it well. Very often I think about how I should be more like her, and not waste a second. Her memory inspires me to treat every moment like my last.