My grandfather was one of 10 children - a very catholic family. Out of the 6 girls, 5 became sisters/nuns. Out of the 4 boys, 1 became a priest. Out of such a huge family, I have only have 2 first cousins.
I didn't ever get to meet my grandfather - he died before I was born. Luckily, he left an amazing footprint on the lives he touched. He taught at the oldest jesuit all boys high school in the country for 37 years, as athletic director and teacher. I hear stories of him through the students he taught.
I also hear stories about him through my great aunts and uncles. Little by little, I've had to witness them getting older and passing away. Not surprisingly, the sisters/nuns have all lived to be well into their 80's, and some into their 90's.
Now, I only have one left. My Aunt Cyrilla. She lives in the Boston area, has a thick New England accent, and is as sharp as can be. She is a smart ass almost always and has energy that I can only dream of having when I'm her age, which is 88. Health wise, she has been in fantastic shape. The only thing we've seen a change in, is that she's become a little more hunched over the years and walks slightly slower. She just stopped driving a car this year, much to her disappointment.
My mom just went to visit her cousins and my Aunt Cyrilla over the weekend. She spent almost all day sitting and talking with her on one day, and stopped by again on Sunday before she came back to DC.
We got a call from my mom's cousin last night. My Aunt was found in the hallway of her building, very disoriented yesterday morning, as in, less than 24 hours since she had been totally fine with my Mom. She's now in the hospital, not responding, not talking, not eating. She opens her eyes when my cousins go into the room and she looks right at them. The doctors are running tests - nothing has come back conclusive. We thought it might be a stroke - but nothing has shown up yet. They think it may have been a mini heart attack - but the confusion doesn't make sense with that diagnosis. The heart damage may be something pretty old that didn't give her symptoms when it happened.
My heart is breaking. I have neglected to go see her over the last couple years. Ian and I had a trip planning in December/January, but I had a kidney stone/infection and we ended up cancelling at the last minute. I desperately tried to find time this summer - but it went by too quickly.
And now, I'm not sure if I'll get the chance to see her. I don't know if she'll get to meet Ian. Please, if you are the praying type, say some prayers for her. If you're not the praying type, please send some positive thoughts her way.
My last great aunt - I'm not ready to lose her. I realize she's had a long, very fulfilling life. But I'm not ready. And I don't know what I'll do if I don't get to see her - to live with that regret - I don't want to.
I'm just not ready.