For The Love of Life and B
…The feeling of loss overwhelms me as I wait for my boarding group to be called to embark on the plane headed to Washington. Aunt B is gone. It’s not just a phone call on Christmas day that says words that don’t sink in. It’s not scrambling to get airline tickets, a hotel, and a rental car together while arranging for multiple members of my actual and extended family to watch my girls. It’s not merely a frenzy of finding and packing weather appropriate maternity wear for me and laying out the kids outfits for each of the 4 days I will be away.
It is seeing loved ones whose eyes mirror the look of devastation I know is found in my own. It is a hug that lingers, and no matter how long, it is not long enough. It is an embrace that simultaneously allows you to fall to pieces and holds you together. It is a story that makes you laugh or makes you cry, usually both. A story that you share or is shared with you in love and remembrance of a truly caring and generous spirit. It is Betty, once again bringing everyone together, always the rock and glue of the family.
I stand next to the connected row of light gray chairs outside my departure gate, waiting for my number to be called, and I come apart. It happens when I reach down to gather my boarding pass and get a whiff of cigarette from a passerby’s clothing…it mixes with the hot coffee I have in my hand and the two aromas together instantly bring me back to Aunt B’s kitchen table. I’m sitting with my back to the window having my first few sips of coffee while Uncle Fred has his morning smoke to the left of me and Betty rests to my right. A familiar scene to me that is simple in it’s context, but in that moment I realize it will never be more than a memory, as that chair to my right will never have B in it again beyond my minds eye.
It all hits me right then. I came to say goodbye and my time is up. I’m about to fly home and life will go on. It doesn’t seem right that it should, and in that moment I want to go back. I’m not ready to move forward, I want my B back. I want to be with my family and have one more embrace, one more story, one more laugh, one more cry, one more meal. I’m not just saying goodbye to Aunt B and all that she was to me; I’m saying goodbye to family I’ve not seen in such along time, and while the circumstances were sad and the time was brief, it was a beautiful coming together that I can’t stand to part from. I’m saying goodbye to friends that let me talk and cry to them, venting my desolation while they held my hand or rubbed my back. I’m saying goodbye to the smell of the south, a fragrance filled with salty, sweet wetness, that until this trip was a welcomed hello to me and a promise of time with family and friends…and Betty.
The tears come fast and hot. First running down my cheeks and splashing on my big, pregnant belly; then pouring from my eyes in a stream that I cannot control. I give in to the overwhelming emotion that fills me and let my shoulders shake with the sobs I have no time to be ashamed of. My vision blurs from my tears and for a few seconds I am no longer surrounded by busy travelers or suitcases or polished tile floors. I am alone in my pain. It is all that exists.
Only when a stranger gently touches my hand do I become aware of my surroundings again. A gentle faced mother with kind brown eyes and dark hair in a ponytail looks right at me and, without a word, nudges something into my palm. It is a package of soft, white tissues. I notice then that my cotton, teal colored maternity top is nearly as wet as my face. I look up at her to thank her as a fresh wave of tears flow from my eyes and all I can manage is a nod. And with the briefest of smiles she is gone, back to her kids and juice boxes that need opening.
It is then that I realize they have called my group number to board. I gather my things and try to collect myself so I can get on the plane…so I can get on with the task of living. I know B would want me to simply remember the love she gave so freely and completely, and to continue that legacy of love. I close my eyes and let her memory engulf me. A smile forms at my lips as I exist in my minds recollection of B…and before I can stay too long the baby kicks my left side from its cramped quarters, and a life yet to start reminds me that life, and love, go on.