My aunt Kathleen died yesterday.
She's been in my family for twenty-five years. I never spent a lot of time with her, but I always liked her. After my father's death, she said some very sensible and helpful things to me; among other things, she gave me some useful perspectives on addiction. There were a lot of aspects to her life that I didn't know much about: she was a gardener, for example, and was active in local political issues. But the sides of her that I did see were down-to-earth and matter-of-fact and insightful. I only saw her intermittently, and only talked with her when I saw her in person; but it was always a pleasure to get time with her.
At the end of March, a couple days after my birthday, I was in Seattle for a work trip, and after some complicated planning, she and I ended up spending a couple of hours walking around a Seattle neighborhood. It was great: a nice walk in the warm sunshine, a good talk about all sorts of things, catching up and discussing. It was, as she noted afterward, probably the longest amount of time she and I had spent together. I was looking forward to future walks and talks.
Two weeks after that, she had what appeared to be a stroke.
She spent the last two weeks in the hospital. I considered flying up, but it seemed like things were pretty chaotic and difficult, and I was expecting that I would go up and see her after everything calmed down and she was doing better.
It eventually turned out not to have been a stroke, but rather (if I understood right) a particularly bad case of viral encephalitis. And over the past week or so, I gather that her condition went seriously downhill. And yesterday afternoon, she died.
I'm very glad that I got that time with her a month ago. It wasn't a goodbye; at the time she seemed to be in excellent health, and I fully expected to see her again in a couple of months. But it gave me, if not closure exactly, at least a sense that we hadn't left things unsaid, that we had re-established and affirmed a solid connection.
But I'm nonetheless sad about her death. I'll miss her.