One of my closer cousins had called and wanted to see our aunt who was in a care facility for Alzheimer's patients. My cousin was without any transportation and asked me to drive her to visit our aunt. I didn't hesitate for a second, and we went to visit my aunt the very next day. My aunt appeared mostly non-responsive, until my cousin began singing to her in Spanish. I'm not sure if it was a reflex or if my aunt recognized the song, but her eyes welled up with tears. We spent time talking to her, stoking her hair and arms, and said a prayer for her. We probably spent about an hour just being with her. We noticed that my aunt was well taken care of, and that the staff seemed very friendly and caring. They even had a resident cat, who visited us as we talked to my aunt. We knew she was nearing the end and asked her to say hello to everyone in heaven for us.
My aunt passed away two days later.
My aunt Catalina was the last surviving sibling of my mother. She was (technically) the youngest. There was the eldest sister, Concepcion, who was only a couple of years older, then my mother, Gloria, was born in January 1929 and Catalina and her twin sister Lucia were born in December of that very same year. The sisters were extremely close.
|Lucia's wedding photo. My mom is seated at the front left and Catalina is seated at the front right. We can't figure where Concepcion is.|
My aunt Catalina or "Tia Cata" (as we called her) was the jokester of the family. In photos her family found for the service, she was the one who had the silly expressions. Her own kids remembered her practical jokes. She also loved to be surrounded with music. Even though her body was taken over by Alzheimer's, her care takers said she would always hum or sing certain songs, like "que sera, sera, whatever will be will be." One of my cousins would visit her at the care facility with his iPod and headphones so that she could listen to music. The music would brighten her day, and she would perk right up.
We attended the visitation and funeral services, which were very understated, but lovely. My cousins had white balloons to release at the grave-site service, which was quite touching.
We reunited with stories from our mothers, and what we remembered growing up. We all remember the story our mothers told us about when they were young teens -- when a man broke into their house with ill intent, and the man had no chance against four tough sisters who beat him up in self defense. It's not that the break in or ill intent was funny, it's that the sisters had a reputation for toughness after that. We all laughed that our mothers used the threat of a house slipper (or "chancla") for discipline. You never wanted to see that "chancla" being thrown at you for any reason.
The weird thing about reuniting with long lost family members is that you realize, even with all the differences, is that how we all looked related. I know, duh, but their kids looked like my kids and my brother's and sister's kids as well. Even though we were together under somewhat sad circumstances, we had a good time reuniting, and it was as if we didn't miss a beat. We just melded as if so many years had not slipped by. My brother in law even commented how easy it was to be around each other, which doesn't always happen when you reunite with family. Perhaps our mother's did something right for us to all get along so well.
There were other commonalities. Some of my cousins participate in endurance sports such as tris, half marathons, obstacle course races, and Crossfit, etc. Another cousin's wife runs and runs long distance races, such as marathons and half marathons and lives in the area. I had no idea.
It's funny how Facebook had started as somewhat of a novelty for me, but being able to reconnect with family has been a bonus. I'm glad this hall happened before my aunt's passing. I just hope we can keep in touch.
Song from Friday, May 18, 2012:
Changes - David Bowie