A Visit With Auntie N

Yesterday evening, Nathan was at class until a little after 9:00 p.m. so Dominic and I were on our own. We went on an outing together. We went to visit Aunt Natalie, our Auntie N.

The problem, though, was that she wasn’t really there. When we first arrived, a friend of hers was just inside the door and told us that she was sleeping. We talked with this friend (sorry, I forgot her name) for a while and then went in to see Nat before we left. As we went in, she opened her eyes. She was staring somewhere, but it wasn’t anywhere in the room. It seemed that her spirit wasn’t really there. I looked into her eyes and didn’t see my Aunt Natalie. She wasn’t smiling so clearly, it wasn’t really her.

She mumbled a few things that I couldn’t understand and neither could her friend. Then her friend asked her, “Did you see the baby?”

She turned to the side, looked at Dominic and said, “Hi, Dom.” Then she stared off again. Eventually, she asked for something. After having her repeat it a couple of times, I understood that she wanted the blinds opened, so I pulled them open and the sun brightened her room. She rolled to her side, facing the windows, and closed her eyes again.

I knew that I already missed Nat. I knew that wasn’t really her in that body anymore. I wondered what it was like to already by in limbo because tumors have taken away the desire to be physically connected to her body and because the medicine must numb things as well.

I also knew that I would forever be glad that Dom and I could make that visit last night. He won’t remember it, but I will. He won’t remember her, but I will.

So I will teach him about her and how she always looked out for me and took care of me.

I will tell him about what happened when he wasn’t even a month old yet. I was at home on a Sunday evening waiting for Nathan so that we could go to dinner at my parents. We would be late and I didn’t know how late because I didn’t know when Nathan would come home from church meetings. And then I talked to Natalie on the phone. She was at my parents for dinner as well. She didn’t usually go to Sunday dinners, but I suppose that she wanted to this time because she had just found out that she had cancer. I couldn’t even imagine what she was dealing with emotionally, but she was more worried about me.

I didn’t want to admit it to anybody (let alone put it on the blog, even now after I’ve already been through it), but I was in a dark place and had post-partum depression. I had this beautiful little boy and I was so very sad so much of the time. And she knew. We were only talking on the phone, but she instantly heard it in my voice and knew exactly what to do. She told me to get in the car and come over. Nathan could come later. She knew that being home with just a newborn, watching the clock, and waiting, was not where I should be. That instead, I should be surrounded by family. She knew.

The next week, she called to check on me. She was dealing with doctor’s appointments and finding out that there was so much cancer in her body that they would tell her she had six months left. And yet she was checking on me. She had also told my cousin, Laura, and my Aunt Annabel because she knew my sister and Mom were already checking on me, but wanted plenty of support. Because of her, I was able to admit that I should call up my doctor. I had an appointment. We could take care of this depression and I could better take care of Dom and be a happier wife for Nathan. Nat helped me be happier for my family.

I will tell Dom about how Nat has always taken care of me like that. About how she knew I was struggling with money in college and so she came up with “work” for me by having me help her with computer issues. She kept track of the time I spent helping her and paid me for it. I tried to refuse, but she wouldn’t let me. She made her living as a violinist so I knew she wasn’t rich, but she was still more concerned about her “starving-student” niece than her own cash flow.

I will tell Dom about how she would commiserate with me about the times when I couldn’t stand living in a condo with so much neighbor noise. About how she spent hours with me on several occasions organizing my life to fit into a small home. About how she was always there to talk to about dating and the single life. About how she was very straightforward with me about depression and other emotional struggles for both her and us, her family members.

I will definitely tell Dom about when she lived in Palo Alto and invited Maren, Laura and I to visit her for New Year’s. Maren and Laura were freshmen in college and I was a sophomore. We borrowed the Suburban from my Dad (because none of us really owned a reliable car back then) and drove out to San Francisco. We slept on the floor in her living room on air mattresses she’d purchased just for our visit. Somehow, we were locked out once and she had me break in through her kitchen window (which I don’t remember very well now how I quite managed, but it worked). We experienced “the coldest day of our lives” as she warned us when we went out on the ocean in a ski boat to look for whales early one morning. We put on all the layers that we had packed and eventually Laura and Maren were sweating buckets and had to take off five or six layers. We didn’t see any whales, but we did see porpoises and man o’ wars. We celebrated New Years at some friend of hers from her ward and forgot to countdown until midnight. She was too concerned that if we went into the city to celebrate, it wouldn’t be safe. We did ride the train into San Francisco on our own one day while she was working. We met interesting friends. We rode the trolley; we took pictures; we spent a little money; we laughed the whole time. Then we went back to her condo and told her our stories. We still laugh about things from that trip, especially the coldest day of our lives.

And I will tell Dom that I always knew that Natalie loved me. She didn’t marry nor have her own children. She didn’t feel like another Mom to me though, but more like the big sister I didn’t actually have.

When we visited her yesterday, my big sister didn’t look or act like my big sister. It seemed that her spirit may have already started moving on. And I already miss that spirit, but when I saw the body it was leaving, I knew that this would be a release for her. Cancer is awful.

And I’m glad that I have this picture of Natalie and Dominic from an afternoon sitting on the backporch at Maren’s. Grandma DeeDee also joined us while Campbell played in the sandbox, making Dominic giggle and giggle. Nat took a video of his giggling on her cell phone. I didn’t get a copy so I will have to count on my memory to recall it. We were all very happy. We were all smiling. Natalie has a beautiful smile.

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11 comments

  1. gahh…I am crying. She sounds like such a great lady to be still taking care of you even with such a grim prognosis hanging over her head. I’ve had to deal with a fair amount of anxiety/depression myself…enough to know that sometimes meds and talking through issues can be equally essential. Happiness is only a choice if you’ve got the brain chemistry that can accommodate the emotion. i’m so glad that your aunt was able to help you through. It sounds like she is a lady who will very much be missed.

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    1. Normally, I try to reply to blog comments fairly often, but I got way behind. Anyway, going back through today and reading them again has been cathartic, especially your comment. I really appreciate your empathy. Nice to know we can stick together.

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  2. Thank you so much for sharing this. Natalie was my childhood friend. She is part of my first memories. We spent many hours together laughing, talking, trick or treating, playing games. She and her family were such a huge part of my early years. Wish I lived closer and could have visited.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Laurie. I hope you are doing okay now with Natalie’s loss. Sometimes, I still think I can just shoot her a text and she’ll stop by for dinner. I’m sure that little hope will never go away so I’m glad for all of the great memories.

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  3. You Lauren, like Natalie, know how to lift, how to comfort, how to be there at just the right time saying just the right thing. Her unique sensitivity and earnest empathy live on through you. Dad

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  4. You made me cry. She sounded like an amazing lady! So glad she was a part of your life as I’m sure she was blessed to have you be a part of hers. Thank goodness for the Gospel, right? I can only imagine how wonderful it’ll be to see her again! Please let me know if I can do anything. My prayers are with you and your family.

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  5. Thank you for writing all this–it is beautiful. She was my favorite cousin because she was my age, and lots of fun to be with-lively, laughing, interesting, intelligent and so on…I always enjoyed spending some time with her at family reunions. In the last 10 years, I really intended and wanted to spend more time with her, but now she has flown from us. Her memory will be a light in my life, as I can see it is for you.

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  6. I really savored each word of your memories with Nat. I am reminded of a time many years ago when i lived with my grandmother in your parents ward. Being newly divorced, losing my house and my kids.. I felt like a shipwreck. One day I received a wedding invitation from your oldest brother. Your mother or father must have put me on the invite list. I can’t tell you how touched i was to be thought of by your parents at that time in my life. It is something i have never forgotten. I think this gift of being aware of others was also an part of your parents. (Most likely your mom since Dads don’t get excited about wedding invites).

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    1. Scott, I told my parents about your comment and they were glad to hear it. Thanks for your kind words. Meant a ton to have so many people say that they appreciated what I felt was a stumbling approach to say goodbye to my Aunt through writing.

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