My aunt sits like a small island on her couch and listens as my mother tells her, “He’ll always be with you.” My aunt shakes her head No, considering the husband who was with her for over sixty years, the empty seat next to her in temple now, the lonely apartment.
I watch her, wondering if I dare mention that she brings my uncle back to life for me when she tells us about their time together. After my daughter died I needed to talk about her. Having people listen was better than hearing them tell me Marika was watching over me. Can I tell my aunt my daughter is stamped all over my heart and that as long as I live, a small part of her will be kept alive too? Can I say that I will carry and keep Marika with me until the day I myself am carried out of this world?
“You still have you,” is my standard line for someone who tells me she has lost someone or something. But it takes a while to recognize this as something of value. Over time it has become my mantra, “I still have me.” What I really want to tell my grieving aunt is, “Live.” Live because life is a gift. A time-limited offer, it will not last forever. Non-transferable, it cannot be given away to one of the many who fight for each breath and each hour. Live and discover how you’ve grown in his love.
I say little during our visit. Instead, I listen to my aunt’s stories.
And outside her living room, the trees in Florida hug themselves with outstretched roots that wrap around their trunks and cling. Each tree is a small community that holds itself up in a celebration of life.