There is a little pulsing sorrow, a spot of grief, sitting in the back of my mind and heart this week.
This week, my Aunt died.
I loved her very much. She was one of my favorite people.
I faced the waves and torrents of grief last month--so this time it's not as intense. But there is still mourning. Still that grief that is outside language and reason, that I cannot label with an "I'm sad because...." and that I can't resolve. It will just have to sit there and fade on its own over time, I suppose. It's not paralyzing this time. It's just there, small and deep, sitting in a part of my soul that I haven't experienced much of before.
She was a person I looked to frequently when I needed an example of someone who worked hard to chose right despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles. She suffered from multiple personalities, all different. But they all loved babies and animals and hated injustice. Any time someone uses the "I was abused" defense in court, I think of Aunt Julia, who was abused--SERIOUSLY abused--as a child, as a teenager, as an adult--by her parents. And she still clung to her ability to choose to not be that way, to love babies, to sacrifice even when it was physically painful in order to support my mother (her younger sister), to defend the poor and weak and abused even if it meant opening the door to her own pain yet again.
She suffered, too. Suffered from all kinds of pains, physical, mental, emotional, both from genetics (curse you fibro!) and from things others inflicted on her. Things that shattered her mind and tried to crush her spirit.
I learned from watching her how much damage a mother can do to a child (because her mother did to her), and also how strong and indomitable the human soul can be in fighting against the challenges that others place on us.
She was a strong, feisty person, intensely loyal to those who loved her (and there were so few, it seems, although I found her love-able, even if she was never cuddly). She's the only person whose salty language made me smile instead of frown.
She is the one who showed me that mental illness is not scary, but tragic. And also that there is a person behind every ill mind--a person who is suffering and in pain, trapped by a mind that won't let them live and that betrays them constantly. But I also learned from her that most mental illness doesn't completely remove our ability to make choices, although it can make it much harder. Mental illness is NOT wickedness, not inherent evilness of soul (although it can be painful for everyone involved).
Aunt Julia loved to read. As a writer, that means a lot to me. I think books were her escape--her way out of a world that she could not control and that was, to a great extent, completely against her most of the time. Anytime anyone devalues "escape fiction," I am hurt. I aspire to write escape fiction. Why? Because some people need an escape. For some, it's one of the only joys in life. We who write escape fiction are not producing reams and reams of trash. For some, like Julia, it's a treasure.
She was who she was, imperfect but wonderful. I don't think she knew how many people actually did love her.
Suicide is cruel. It's not something I am in favor of, no matter the circumstances surrounding it.
But I can see why she wanted out. Hers was not a life anyone would aspire to, through no fault of her own. So much pain, all the time. Her son, Lance, is one of my heroes for taking care of her and loving her all these years.
I don't think God met her with condemnation for the way she left the world. Rather, I think He probably met her with hugs and comfort, the way any of us would a child who, in much pain and sorrow, ran home from school (against the rules, and without asking first) looking for a loving mommy or daddy to make it better.
Julia would hate the idea of a cloud and a harp, and I don't really want her to have to rest in peace. Finally, she's free! I want her to rest in joy, freed from that broken body. In some ways, she is finally able to live. I don't begrudge her that at all.