Finding Faith

January 23, 2011
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The decline was painful. I don’t necessarily know if it was physically painful for her, but for me, and the rest of my family helplessly on the outside, it was painful.

My great aunt, Auntie Lo, was like a grandmother to me. For as long as I can remember, I had been visiting her with my mom to make cookies, run in the field behind her house, or spend time with cousins. The house was familiar, a safe haven. Eventually, as I grew older, I didn’t visit my Auntie Lo nearly as often as I should have, and at eleven years old, I didn’t know what sick really meant. When my mom and grandma talked about her being “sick”, I assumed she had a cold or the flu, something that she could recover from within a week or two. I had no idea that she had become trapped within her own mind.

After a break in communication of nearly a year, Auntie Lo came to my youngest sister’s birthday party. From the living room, I saw her walk in the door. She walked over to where I sat with friends and cousins and uttered that simple life changing question, “Hi sweetheart, what is your name?”

My mind raced. I didn’t understand why she didn’t know who I was. It was the same woman who taught me how to flip pancakes and how to catch dragonflies, but to her, I was just another child. I soon learned that she was suffering from Alzheimer’s, and that I hadn’t been the only one she had forgotten.

Before long, I was a freshman in high school, four years after the initial incident of her forgetting me. Her health remained relatively constant in those few years until she began to receive hospice care. Two weeks later, my grandma called my mom. I watched as all the color drained from my mom’s face and fell into a look of horror. She turned slowly after hanging up the phone and told me carefully as she stared past me at nothing, “Your Auntie Lo had a very serious stroke. She’s in the hospital.”

The week that she was in the hospital brought about a major change in my life. I had to watch one of the most influential women in my life lay motionless in a coma-like state for a week until she passed away a few short days before Christmas. After her death, I learned two things. The first was that I must never, ever take my life, or anyone else’s life, for granted. Her death came and went within a matter of a few short weeks. The second was that while death hurts those left behind, the person who passes away is finally taken out of a state of suffering. I understand now that Auntie Lo’s death really did set her soul free from the confines of her mind. Her spirit flew; my faith grew stronger.





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