Aunt Millie passed last night around 8:10 p.m. My sister-in-law, Pearl, and I were blessed to have spent time with her yesterday afternoon.
My cousins and uncle came together in November, and stayed right through to her last breath, February 7, 2009. She was 79.
At the beginning of her treatment Aunt Millie reminded everyone that her mother, Grandma Irene, died at 79. Aunt Millie's 80th birthday would have been February 19.
Throughout her treatment, her youngest daughter decorated her room for each holiday: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day. She made a basket of hugs and kisses and put them by her bedside.
Aunt Millie was a faithful and devout Catholic.
I am skeptical to admit that it may have been her faith that carried her through, but a part of me envies her absolute faith. If faith is what allowed her to stay a little longer so that she and her family could say their goodbyes to each other, I'm all for it.
Aunt Millie's approach to survival was to simply shrug her shoulders and accept that her time on earth was simply coming to an end. Her belief in eternal life must have been a huge comfort.
If she's right about the eternal life thing, I hope she forgives me if I have the opportunity to show up in her neighborhood.
She fought to stay alive as long as she could, alongside a family that respected her decisions, and protected her dignity when she no longer could.
It has been another life lesson for me in how fragile and resilient our bodies can be at the same time.
Sadly, I've become accustomed to witnessing the process of dying from unforgiving diseases: diabetes, cancers of the lung, pancreas, stomach, and brain.
Why are there no preventive vaccines like the ones for polio, small pox, rubella, mumps?
How is it that a wonder drug like Viagra was invented before a drug to prevent cancer? What kind of priorities fostered that research?
I often hear that pharmaceutical companies make far more money from treating cancer than from preventing it.
I pray that it isn't true, but somehow I think it is.
Tap away Aunt Millie, and give a big hug and kiss to Mom, Dad, and Grandma. We love you all.