Lost Pieces

By , Chelsea, MA
I remember bits and pieces of the end, not specifically her last day. One of my last memories of my Auntie Anna wasn’t exactly the greatest, but it remains in my mind to this day over a year later.

I stood in the back of her hospital room, which wasn’t exactly a hospital room I guess, despite all the medical machinery. It was her nursing home room, which she had been in for over 5 months at that point. I stood as close to the only window as I could, as my aunt had a roommate whose bed was at the window. So I guess I wasn’t at the window so much as I was at a shelving unit closest to the window. It wasn’t just me in the room with her, no, my mom was there, my grandmother and my other aunt Mary, who being my auntie Anna’s sister, visited her faithfully every day, an accomplishment I still admire to this day. But if I remember correctly, on this particular day these were not the only people in the room with me. I believe my grandfather was present too, feeling just as awkward as I was leaning on the wall beside my shelving. My sister too, extremely distraught at the state of my poor aunt remained quiet and stood next to my mother.

I shuffled my feet at how uncomfortable the situation was, and began to question why I even there visiting. I was starving but those words would never escape my mouth because I myself was suffering through anorexia, and never would I willingly ask for food. Standing there against the shelving, hearing the whispers of my family members and the hum of the feeding tube attached to my aunt, I forced my eyes to remain on the tile floor and nothing else. There was no way I was going to look up at the bed and see the emaciated shadow of who my aunt used to be, so I counted the designs on the floor and pretended I wasn’t there. Suddenly I heard the gruff throat clearing that after 15 years I had come to immediately associate with my grandfather, which caused me to glance over at him. He was his quiet self, simply observing the final days of someone we both loved dearly, watching the scene unfold as I was. I don’t specifically remember who suggested that we leave the room and go for a walk outside in the frigid January air, but soon enough myself, my grandfather and my then 12 year old sister were on the elevator going down, and I was grateful to escape the morbid room upstairs despite the silence of the elevator. As I stepped outside my breath misted in the air due to the stark contrast in temperature from the building to the January air, and I began to distance myself from my companions if only for a moment to think.

“I don’t know why I’m here,” I sighed to myself as I paced around the front of the building, trying to quiet my stomach rumblings. I knew fully that my family thought I didn’t care about my aunt, or that I was selfish and would rather carry on my own life as compared to sitting in the stale nursing home at the end of hers, but none of that was true. I simply didn’t want to have to focus on where my aunt was, but would rather keep framed the memories from my childhood; of my aunt playing with me and my sister constantly, whether the game be jail, school, karaoke, etc, she and her two sisters never failed to keep us entertained when we came to visit, which was at that point 6 days a week. My favorite memory of my aunt was probably the puzzle races we would do. All 3 of my aunts and my sister and I would put a timer on, and see who could complete the most puzzles in that amount of time. At that age I never considered my 70 something yr old aunt to be mildly retarded, I just saw her as one of my best friends and playmates. As the years progressed and I aged, I understood what relatives were saying about her being a bit slow, but that never changed how I saw my auntie Anna. If anything, it increased my respect for the woman who loved us more than anyone else I knew, despite her disability.

I begrudgingly walked back to the entrance of the nursing home where my grandfather had just extinguished his cigar, and my sister was raveling her earphones back into a coil. We all shared a look as the automatic doors opened and the stale air hit our faces, one that spoke volumes that to this day I haven’t been able to voice in words. The elevator ride back upstairs was just as quiet as the decent had been, and my thoughts drifted vaguely back to the depressing scene, and I felt a pang of complete anger and sadness. I hated that my auntie Anna was in the place, trapped in a bed, immobile in her last days, unable or unwilling (nobody really knew) to eat, and barely speaking a word to anyone. What made me even angrier was that this was exactly how the last days of her sister, another one of my childhood playmates, my auntie rose, ended up going only it was worse. I was younger when she died, and there was no hospital visit, no last goodbye, just that auntie rose had gone to the hospital with emphysema and never came back. As the elevator reached the floor of Auntie Anna’s room and the three of us stepped into the hallway, I banished thoughts of auntie rose and how much these deaths were beginning to mirror each other, and put on my game face.

We walked into the room and everyone looked up for a moment, and then went back to their own conversations. I looked first at my auntie Mary, sitting in a chair by my aunts bed, and seeing how tiny and sad she looked made me tear up for a moment. I quickly recovered and resumed my spot by the shelving, to where my mother had moved. We had a tense conversation, decided that her, my sister, my grandmother and I would be leaving shortly with my grandfather, and of course discussed that I had not eaten yet, to which I rolled my eyes at, unable to fathom how we could still have that conversation while standing in the room with my dying great aunt, and her dying aunt.

Shortly after this we did leave and the group said our goodbyes to the remaining relatives in the room. I dutifully hugged each and every one, lingering at my aunt Mary the longest. I stood next to the hospital bed where my wonderful, amazing, perfect auntie Anna lay looking like a shell of the person I once knew. I can’t say that I kissed my aunt, but I looked at her long and hard, accepting what had happened and turned to leave the room with the rest of my family.

Days later my auntie Anna died in that room, and it was over. I may have visited her after that day but I don’t have any real recollections about any other visits or even the funeral and wake. A year and a half after her death and life goes on; my anorexia is in the past, and I’m healthy, as is the rest of my family. Yet things still bother me about my aunt’s final days. I know I never had a proper closure to the death of my precious auntie Anna. I suppose I said goodbye, but it wasn’t a proper farewell at all, and to this day I can’t understand why. Auntie Anna isn’t spoken of frequently at all, and this bothers me deeply, because my family likes to simply deal with tragedy and pretend it never happened; my aunt was no exception other than to me and my sister who were her best friends, and who still miss her greatly. Her death reminds me of our puzzle races, when things would get hectic and pieces would go missing; the final days of my aunt were all one big race, and it was more like the pieces were shattered all over the floor. It saddens me we never got to say a proper goodbye to each other, my aunt and I, but it is my hope that in heaven she can read this and understand it’s the best closure we’re ever going to have.

I love you Auntie Anna, always and forever





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