“She passed away about fifteen minutes ago.” Immediately after hearing this, my mind flashed back to memories of my great-aunt. My thoughts were flooded with remembrances of her: her Christmas parties and how they brought together both sides of her family, visiting her on Sunday afternoons, her warm smiling face, and learning about her trips to Asia as a civilian teacher in the Air Force. My thoughts turned to the more recent occurrences in my great-aunt’s life, the ones that had eventually brought about her demise. I thought of the cancer that riddled her body, refusing to release her from its agonizing grip, how she struggled to present a smiling face to us the last time we visited her. I thought of how painful the last few months had been for her.
That night I didn’t cry. I came dangerously close, when I went downstairs to see how my mom, who had been really close to her aunt, was taking the news. With tears in her eyes she reminisced how her aunt had written a letter in red ink to my mother’s brother and her from ‘Santa’. Still, behind the sorrow, and the tears that we’ve both let fall since then, we were both happy for her. We believe that there is life after death. We believe that our aunt is still living, receiving her reward for all the wonderful acts of kindness she did in this life.
She had planned her entire funeral, every detail, before she died. On the day of her death, she went through all of the people who had given her Christmas cards telling my grandma whom to send notices of her death to. She had been ready—the family hadn’t. In the back of our minds we had known she probably was going to die this year. We could see her saying her good-byes to the world and everything in it that she loved, but we hadn’t accepted it. When I heard that she really was gone, I felt shocked. I had expected that I would be there, but she passed quietly out of this life.
In my religion we believe that death is just another step in our journey. Death is sad for those who are left behind, but the hope and faith we feel soon erases the pain of our loss. Death is sometimes necessary. I can feel relief because she is freed from the destruction of her living body from cancer. I believe that she is free and happy, so I can feel some happiness through my sorrow.
As I sat there in the viewing, my eyes filled with tears as I saw that my great-aunt had a small smile on her lips. It was time to let her go. I will see her again, and she will hug me and laugh with me again. I believe that we will see each other again. Until then, I will be the best that I can be.
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