Two days ago I got a call from my cousin who told me that his mother, my Aunt Carole, was being transported to a hospice facility in McDonough, Georgia. I had not known she was sick (cancer), which should be a surprise to most anyone except that there had been a family "falling out" many years ago (that's another story). He told me to pass the news along to my siblings and my mother; there was no mention of my father. Of course my Aunt Carole is my father's baby sister.
After the call, I went to see my father. He was not aware of the move to hospice but he mentioned that she had undergone chemotherapy treatment for the past few years, which of course was news to me. I urged him to go see his sister "now". God bless him, he got in his car and made the drive to Jackson, Georgia to see his sister. After his visit, he called on his cell phone and talked for over 30 minutes about the visit (my previous "long" phone conversation with my father was ~2 minutes [he does not like phones]). As it turns out, the trip became an opportunity for a brother and sister to make peace.
This morning, I made the trip with my siblings and my mother. My Aunt Carole has lost 100 lbs and looks much older than her 72 years, but she was still as sharp as a tack and a joy to behold. We talked about family, history and travel. We told stories and we laughed. Every so often she had to move because of the pain, but she never complained. She talks of death as a transition and looks forward to her future life with anticipation. Her positive outlook is a joy and an inspiration.
On the journey home, I thought about why we wait until the last minute to let go of past injury in order to enjoy what little time we have together? There was joy and a deep wisdom in that hospital bed and I had missed out on that relationship for reasons that did not involve me.
I plan to make a pilgrimage to the hospice to see my Aunt as often as I can. I am looking forward to it being just the two of us. I look forward to learning as much as I can about life, love and forgiveness.
As they say, we should live today like we knew it was our last. Can you imagine how beautiful this world could be?