I glanced anxiously around the cramped airplane cabin. A soft breeze spun around my shoulders, a button beeped in the background, and a weight plunged in my stomach. Itchy seats gave me an irritating reminder that this departure to California wasn’t joyful. I was usually elated to travel to Berkeley to see my aunt SamYeeMa. Today, my eyelids closed longingly as I slipped into memories.
Giggling, I wiggled into my aunt’s lap as Minnie Mouse waved at me. I was six. Disneyland welcomed us as the dynamic duo. Waving, I watched the Hawaiian mainland disappear as my aunt and I toured on the S.S. Independence. I turned ten that week. We cruised the peaceful Pacific, despite chaos heading our way. Concentrating, I flicked the Chinese ink brush as similarly to Sam Yee Ma as I possibly could. Preteens imitate. We stood, side by side, channeling our energy into artwork. Gulping, I realized the truth. It was my fourteenth birthday. We would never be physically together again.
Turbulence. My seat shook me violently back to reality. My mom took my hands and my brother’s hands and whispered tearfully, “I’m so sorry, but I didn’t know how to tell you earlier. She slipped away from her coma this morning. Emily, I’m so sorry that today is your birthday.”
Now, I know that birthdays are not simply random days that our mothers went into labor. They symbolize our entrance into the world. I believe that birthdays connect us to one another. Just as people associate through similar values and interests, we connect to our loved ones simply by existing. Linked by birth also means linked by death. Sitting on the airplane, however, I drifted away—disconnected entirely. Someone would have to try very hard to convince me of my link with my aunt. That someone was my grandmother. She stated clearly, “Perhaps today, June 27, was chosen just for the two of you and now, through death, SamYeeMa will live on with you forever.”
Through tears of distraught mourning and smiles of memories with her, I have grown to believe in this eternal connection between my aunt and me. The day that she passed away from this world was also the day that marks the milestone of my earthly existence. God gave to us an unbreakable bond, an everlasting connection, and a direct link through death. Despite my anger and confusion, explanation seems impractical. Cancer comes without reason, yet love always has purpose. In essence, I have grown to cherish the moments spent with SamYeeMa in ways that I may never have recognized if this tragedy had not occurred. I believe that I can now live guided by my aunt’s light. In time, I will discover other reasons for our invaluable connection. The seemingly worst birthday present transformed into a priceless gift. It opened up the path of my life with the soothing spirit of SamYeeMa to guide me. That plane trip marks a voyage of our permanent connection. Through death, I’ll live.
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