How many decades had it been since that middle of the night phone call that brought me to my knees praying over my mother while waiting for the them to pick up her body? Too many I’m afraid. The years may fade, but the etched memory never does.
I tumbled back to that moment again today when the gentle chime tone startled me awake. I fumbled for my phone with a sense of panic knowing that 2 a.m. texts and phone awakenings were not rooted in “let’s chat” motive. “Mutti hatte einen Schlaganfall, es sieght night gut aus.” A wave a regret poured over me, drowning out all panic. My aunt, the matriarch of our family had suffered a stroke. As the tears started to well, I could hear her voice from our conversation a few weeks prior, “Now that your life has found its balance again, tell me you’ll come visit soon, it’s been ten years and I’m not going to live forever, you know!” We both laughed and I said something I’d not said in the last ten years, “I know, I know, I promise.”
Life had been hard, my family knew it first hand. My divorce left me not only emotionally broke, but monetarily as well. Despite the detail and dedication I had given to assure a great retirement, at the age of 45, I was forced to start over again, with nothing. I was busy finding my footing and rebuilding my life, a visit to Germany seemed frivolous.
The call was yesterday, I write this today from a cramped seat of a 737. Her stroke was severe, both sides of the brain; they would keep her in an induced coma until my sister and I arrived. The last of my aunts, the last of a generation would be gone.
Crisis re-prioritizes life. It humbles us and reminds us that the hours and effort we put into building and growing security is the true frivolous. It’s sad how we wait for a defining moment to do what we know in our heart we should do. We task our way through life with the focus to catch up, get ahead, or just survive, and all the while we hang on to a false belief that we will have the opportunity to make good the connections we put off, some time in the future. We minimize the need for deep connection with those we love — the most important part of our lives — because we know their love for us is forgiving and unconditional.
I head out today with the knowing that regretfully, my aunt won’t know that I kept my promise, and with a renewed promise and focus to be there for the rest of my family…and for myself.
Moments that change our lives always imprint, we can’t escape them we can only hope that we will endure them, learn from them, and in the end become a better person because of the experience.
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