I went away for the weekend and took a much needed vacation day today. I actually just arrived home about 45 minutes ago. It’s a beautiful day and I’m home alone – the sunshine and silence are good for my soul right about now.

I could write about the weekend – a nice time in Michigan with my mom, dad, and sister. It was reminiscent of the “good ol’ days” when we used to hop in the car for our annual 2-week long treks across the country. This was a much shorter drive, but still fun.

However, something else was on my mind this weekend (and especially today). One year ago today was the last time I saw and spoke to my aunt. We had just arrived home (in Chicago) from our trip to Michigan and the hospital called my mom – my aunt was disoriented and scared and wanted her to come to the hospital. We jumped in the car and went. I didn’t want to go the hospital, and I especially didn’t want to spend any time on the cancer unit, but my dad and I went in support of my mother. It’s so weird because I wasn’t planning on seeing my aunt, but as soon as she heard I was there, she sent my mom to come get me. How could I refuse? As my mom and I walked down the hall to her room, I kept saying that I was afraid – afraid of how she had changed since I last saw her and afraid that I would cry in front of her.

She looked amazingly different. The wig she once wore was replaced by her own hair – a “salt & pepper” crew cut that was coming in nicely. She was so thin and her glasses now looked enormous on her gaunt face. It was a struggle for her to talk, but she said hi and we hugged and kissed.

I was only in there for about 10 minutes. I knew she was tired, so I offered to leave (I also left because I was freaked out and didn’t want to be in that room any longer). I still recall the last words she ever spoke to me: “Love you, babe.” I couldn’t say it back. I couldn’t say it because if I did, it was like saying goodbye to her…and I just wasn’t ready to do that. All I could muster was: “See you soon, OK?” And then I walked out of her room. I wouldn’t see her again until the day of her funeral just 4 weeks later.

As I thought about this day, and how hard is was for me to be myself around her, I couldn’t help but remember a passage from one of my favorite books – The Little Prince:

“I did not know what to say to him. I felt awkward and blundering. I did not know how I could reach him, where I could overtake him and go on hand in hand with him once more.
It is such a secret place, the land of tears.”
I wish I had told her I loved her that afternoon. I wish I hadn’t been awkward and blundering. I know she knew I loved her, but it’s not the same. If I had that day as a do-over, I would tell her. I would say, “Love you, too, Auntie.”