I suppose it was sometime around the turn of the century when my aunt’s mother and father in law moved up to east Texas from the Gulf area. I didn’t know either of them, they were both even then fairly elderly (he was in 80s, and she was five or six years younger), and it wasn’t much longer after they arrived, installing themselves in a little home about a hundred yards down the hill from their son and daughter in law, that I quit the state. I would see them a handful of times a year at family gatherings, but it would be untrue to say that I felt particularly close to either of them.
I’d get periodic updates now and again from my dad, small things, the small disasters that befall the elderly, the little events that begin to pile one atop the other and eventually start to snowball. He was getting more and more forgetful, she fell and broke her hip, those kind of things. The things you hear and you just sort of shake your head and think it won’t be long now.
The other day, on Facebook, an update from my aunt: Mom seems to be nearing the end of her life. For the last few weeks she has gradually drawn inward. Her eating has stopped and her breathing has slowed. Dad may or may not grasp everything, but his eating has slowed and he sleeps a lot. She is his world and I expect his purpose for being here. She is 87 and he is 95 and they have been married 71 years.
And of course it wasn’t more than a day or so later that she died. And again, I wasn’t close with this lady, but she was nice, and of course she was family, in a way, and I feel for my aunt and especially my uncle.
The song I heard on the radio a few nights ago on my way home from work, and it made me think of this lady I’m clumsily writing about, and how her last few years seem to have been unpleasant ones, and how all that’s over now. I don’t really have the slightest illusion that she’s in some other place. Just that she’s not in this one, and not in pain.
The song is so sweet, so uplifting, that you forget what it is, what so many songs like it fundamentally are: a yearning for death.