She was always our favorite visitor. Full of fun and life, she made our family gatherings exciting. She loved adventure, traveling around the world in her 20’s by herself, going to China in her 40’s, doing yoga at Machu Pichu in her 50’s. She inspired us to try foods we’d never seen, and sports like surfing and rock climbing. Her life was full of friends and her house a gathering place for students and visitors.
Diagnosed recently with dementia, she continues to want to live the vibrant life that she has always known. But it is harder now. Her balance is still steady, but she walks more slowly, sometimes unsure of her purpose. She forgets to eat meals, although she continues to seek out new restaurants. Language is slowly slipping away from her. There are fewer visitors because she can’t remember events and invitations.
She is preparing for one last trip abroad, much to the dismay of many, who would feel so much more comfortable if she agreed to sit in her beloved garden all day. But I applaud her spirit, and I am committed to helping her live out her days in the best ways that she can.
Yesterday, the transition really hit me as I went into REI to pick up some gear for her upcoming trip. I was looking for something cool and helpful like a pill box that could collapse into your back pocket. Maybe with a solar light that might go off periodically to remind her to take her medication. But such things don’t exist. REI is for the person that my aunt used to be: young, tanned, in shape and ready to push to the edge of any challenging situation. Besides, she already has most of the equipment in the store, since she never throws anything away.
Blinking back tears, I remembered all that she taught us over a life time of climbing mountains and taking risks and then coming back home safely to tell about them. She is pushing to the edge now, but it is much harder for the world to see that. She is just as inspirational now as she was 30 years ago, even if the destination is a friend’s house overseas.
God Bless you, aunty, and may you remember enough of this adventure to sustain you on the journey. Your spirit lives on in all of those around you.