My aunt JoAnn died yesterday. She was 90.
I don’t feel much. I should. I might later, but I don’t feel much now. When my uncle Bill died a few months ago I didn’t feel anything – I never liked Bill, honestly – but then 4 or 5 days later, the horror of our last conversation hit me full in the heart, and I was haunted for a day or two by imaginings of the terror he must have been facing. And whereas I used to tell funny, insulting stories about Bill’s bizarre life, now I find I can’t really talk about him at all without feeling guilty about besmirching his memory.
Not that there’s much of a memory. He died friendless and alone.
JoAnn died alone, but not friendless. She still died badly, though.
JoAnn had the constitution of a rhinoceros. She got cervical cancer in 1957, which was a death sentence. She survived it. She’s since had kidney and bladder cancer, both of which she survived. There was another one in there in the ’60s, I think. She also had several strokes. Her resilience was nothing short of astounding. You could hit her with a truck, and she’d shake it off and go home and have a wine cooler or something, then watch the news and be fine the next day.
Ultimately this worked against her. Her one remaining kidney needed a stint in order to function, so stuff could get to her bladder. It caused her constant pain, sometimes bad. She had to have it surgically changed every 3 months for several years.
She got an infection, and had to go into the hospital, where she got very sick, and became too weak to walk. We didn’t expect she’d survive, but she recovered and went into a rehab facility so she could go home. While she was there she lost her home, effectively. She got sick again, and went back into the hospital. She recovered, and they put her in an ALF. She got sick, and they put her in the hospital, then back to another ALF. This was her life: getting a disease that should have killed her, her remarkable constitution saving her life, only to be tortured by yet another diseases, survive, disease, survive. The poor thing went through this for more than a year, and she was just tortured. Tortured by her own body which refused to give up.
Finally it did. Yesterday I was talking to her Physician’s Assistant and her POA and her ex-daughter-in-law and the nice lady who’s been taking care of her for no money or recognition, just because she’s a nice Christian lady. I was trying to get some stuff resolved. Then the call came in that she’d died.
I felt nothing, except maybe relief. I’d prayed for her to die on a couple of occasions. She was saved, so she and I believe that the afterlife is better than this life, and she was in so much pain for such a long time, and she lost everything at the end: Her home, her money. She couldn’t even float the costs of the ACLF. They kept her on as a charity case. She was a pauper.
JoAnn had a pretty horrible life. Working class family with seven kids. Her mom had a nervous breakdown when she was eight, and abandoned the family. Half a century later, JoAnn would get stuck with the job of caring for her mother. They went homeless in the Great Depression, and her and her sister moved in with relatives while the boys lived in a coal cellar.
Eventually she married Bill, though all the family told her not to. Their life was not happy. They had a son. he died about 7 years ago. They had a nice house, but lost it, and moved into a condo 30 years ago. They lost the condo as I already said. She worked hard for most of her life, until she was too old to work, and ended up with nothing to show for it: Broke and in a room all by herself in pain.
I don’t believe there’s any real reason people suffer or succeed in this life. Jesus says I’m right in the Bible. If there were any such thing as divine retribution or some hokey concept of “Karma,” then that would mean everyone who has bad stuff happen to them deserves it. Trump is rich because he deserves it? All those kids who die of cancer deserve it? How horrible would that kind of universe be? My aunt JoAnn certainly didn’t deserve it. She was a kind, and often oblivious soul who never hurt anyone. this is why I take great comfort in the inherent unfairness of the universe.
It is a disturbing thing to pray for someone to die. You do it for the most noble of reasons, but it takes a piece of your soul, I think. It goes against every instinct.
So that’s it. I don’t have a moral, or a conclusion, just that my Aunt is dead, and I’m glad for her sake, and not nearly as messed up by it as I should be.