My beloved Aunt Mary died several weeks ago, early one Sunday morning in February. She was my mother’s younger sister, but not by much, and their close bond throughout their lives always made me long for a sister, too. It often surprised the three of us how much more I resembled my aunt in attitudes and preferences than I did my mother. And in the years since my mother died, Mary and I had become even closer, sharing e-mails and phone visits regularly.
My aunt was a remarkable person, utterly funny, charming, intelligent, and alive to the society, interests, and amusements that paraded through her days, the kind of person who had many lifelong friends, enamored children, nieces and nephews, and beholden strangers who benefited from her kindness and acts of charity. She was someone whose wit, wisdom, ready listening and encouragement were vital to making others see that a better world, or just a better day, is always possible. She had a vital spark most lack. She breathed greater life into those around her than they sustained alone.
I write this not as a eulogy, for I cannot do her gifts or influence on my life justice in such a brief forum, but by way of sharing that my grief in losing her has been gentle and so coupled with relief at her peace that it’s traveled with me these past weeks more like a soft grey cloud than a terrible storm, as my parents’ deaths engendered. I am grateful for her gifts and presence in my life and I am grateful that she is no longer yearning to be with her husband or suffering from ill health.
But I sure miss our e-mails, visits, and shared laughter.
I was thinking of her one morning when spring beckoned more than chores and I’d wandered outside to see what the world could tell me. I saw this daffodil, so earnest in its reaching for light that the dead leaf circumscribing its leaves couldn’t restrain its rising momentum.
That is how the dead can be with us, how grief can restrain joy…The next day, the leaf had fallen away, joining others that surrounded the plant, becoming food for its continued growth. In death, still the breath of life.
Grief takes its own time—and must—but what a gentle reminder that winter leads to spring, and death to life. Just the kind of message my Aunt Mary would send me.
Another gift of spring has been these darling fox kits, just emerging from their den to smell the world and take a few tentative steps into its songs and mysteries. They make every pore of my being tingle with maternal instinct, but, like everything wild, including my own nature, they also teach me over and over again to respect their boundaries and not interfere with instinctive patterns followed for centuries. So I observe from a distance and leave them to their necessary dance. I hope they will know peace, and comfort, and joy, in whatever form these may be known by foxes. I breathe a prayer and send it to their den at night.
I read about a wealthy inventor, futurist and engineer who believes people will, eventually, live forever, and who has hopes that his dietary, vitamin, and exercise regimen will allow him to remain healthy until this is possible.
I have no desire to live forever; I just want to be alive for all of the life granted me, and, if I’ve done it well, maybe I can feed the growth of others in their reaching for the light after I’ve gone, breathing still through their lives and the ways they love the world.
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16 thoughts on “Breath of Life”
A wonderful tribute to your beloved Aunt. My condolences to you and your family.
Thank you, Ogee; that’s kind of you and much appreciated.
Oh Kitty, I don’t even know where to begin after reading this post about your Aunt Mary and seeing those sweet little baby faces peer through these remarkable photographs. What a beautiful soul she must have been to have left such a lingering imprint on you. For you to see her all around you. I have an Aunt who is especially dear to me in the way you described your relationship. It is funny how I too resembled her in so many ways compared to my own mother. I thank you for sharing this heartwarming tribute. Every girl should have an aunt like that in their lives. Much love, Sharon p.s. I cannot get over your fox kits. I cannot.
I agree that every girl needs an aunt like mine; you’re right, Sharon, and I thank you for your sensitive response. I love that you chose the word, “imprint,” a perfect term for the influence my Aunt Mary had on my life. And I can’t get over those kits, either; my, oh, my, what darlings they are!
Peace to your spirit and encounters this week, Sharon, and thank you, again, for visiting and sharing.
Thank you for remembering Mary with such kind words. She was a special woman and I am better for knowing her.
The kittens are really neat. A result, no doubt, from a long and cold winter…
Oh Kitty…So many seem to be crossing over these days. I am just glad Aunt Mary went well loved by all. I think that is all we can hope for really, that we hopefully do not die alone and that we are well loved in our life! She was lucky to have you as part of her journey. I hope her absence lessens for you.
Love the foxes. I had a family of five when I lived in Maryland and what a delight it was to watch them scamper about on awkward legs. These little ones are precious. The rebirth of spring. Wishing you the best and sending my love….VK
You’re so right about loving and being loved, VK; all that matters when we “pull the camera back,” isn’t it?
The foxes have been such a keen pleasure; I think there are four, but there may be more. They’re still very young.
I so appreciate your visits and kindness; thank you for your sensitive presence and gentle heart. Joy to your week!
Kitty, first, the fox kits. I haven’t seen many foxes here since they cut down the woods over the hill to build ugly macMansions. So I miss them and these sweet creatures are a joy to behold – your photos are absolutely wonderful, thank you for sharing them.
I too had an aunt that shaped my life and like Sharon said, “every girl should have an aunt like that.” How blessed you are to have had one so dear to you. I don’t have children but have always tried to be a wonderful aunt to my nieces and nephews, much like my favorite aunts were to me. Your Aunt Mary must be smiling at you now for this loving and sweet tribute. Peace 🙂
Thank you, Lynn; I can only imagine what an amazing aunt you are! 🙂
Those darn MacMansions! I’m so sorry they’ve lessened your access to the “natural” world, unnatural excrescences that they are, but I’m glad you’ve created your gorgeous haven and can enjoy its beauty…who knows? A fox with good taste might just come to call it home one day! 🙂
I love your visits and thoughtful comments; you always seem able to hear beneath the words, and I am grateful.
It is moving to hear of your Aunt Mary. Some of us have to search for such a person… others are blessed to grow in their company. The loss is a painful part of life, but the many positive memories and things you’ve learned from her, will no doubt stay with you, for a long time to come. And it was very sweet to see the kits. They’re charming, and I was moved too, by your wishes for them.
Thank you, Shimon. I’ve been truly blessed with family members and teachers who have proven to be wise, loving and supportive to me on my path through life… I agree, too, that seeking out such mentors often leads us to such blessing as well. Joy to your day…and I agree: those babies are charming!
Oh Kitty, what a beautiful post, it is a credit to your Aunt who obviously left such a legacy of love behind. I hope she lives on in your heart forever for no-one can take our memories. I am so very very sorry for your loss, Aunt Mary sound like such a treasure and it must be hard parting from her.
I was sobbing reading this.
I too have no desire to live forever; and your posts certainly leave a glowing light behind.that feeds the spirit of your readers.
Now….oh my goodness, the pictures of the fox cubs fair took my breath away, a lovely ending to a gentle post and a very special reminder that life continues. How lovely that you pray for the little sweethearts. Bless you. I hope your grief eases soon and your wonderful memories remain vivid and vibrant, just like Mary..
Thank you, my dear Snow Bird! So lovely to share these stories and photos with you, knowing your sensitive heart and eyes will know what I mean to say even if I miss the mark a bit…yes, the little foxes were so precious to watch for the past few weeks. I think the bike trail traffic became too distracting, so Mama Fox moved them to another den, more secluded, I hope. I miss them, but what a lovely treat they were to begin and bless our spring!
My sweet Aunt Mary is very much with me, happily, these days…very peaceful.
Joy and great peace to your week, too! 🙂
I have an Aunt Nadine, still kicking and enjoying life at 91. A few months ago, she flew alone from Iowa through Detroit to NC to visit us. It really was “the trip from hell” she called it. But then she told us about all the nice people who helped her all along the way. I want to be alive as long as I live, too. We are fortunate to have such fine examples.
Yes; I agree. Thank you for sharing this story about your wonderful Aunt Nadine, Amma!