Hey Aug, it’s McKenz here.
It was not our first time together, obviously, but it is my first memory of us together. I am young, maybe four if that. It is my first game as a Damascus Cougar cheerleader; you have come a long, far way to watch Madison and I on the sidelines. Come to watch the start of our love for cheer begin, come to stay with us for a weekend full of crab cakes, mojitos and sweat balls, come for moments I will carry with me forever. You were there for many of my firsts- I am grateful for this in ways I simply have no words for. Unfortunately, God has other plans for you, and because of that, I have had to be there for many of your lasts.
Our last encounter – journaled, Saturday, October 22, 2017
“When we get to her house I can hardly recognize her. She is frail, skinny, just a fraction of the Aug she has always been; dad jokes about her new weight loss program and we giggle awkwardly. A deep, rigid, purple scar steals my attention as it covers ¾ of her neck, looking like a fake one you’d buy to wear on Halloween night. Her hair is light and thin but there nonetheless. Eyebrows frame her face and her brittle hands proudly wear her resized wedding band, her necklace still on as it has been since before I can remember. She is dressed in her ‘I am getting dressed today clothes’ – a white v neck too large for the body she has left, thin black leggings, and a black vest that she has just bought.
Her presence makes me feel whole; I am with Aug and yet this is not the Aug I have always known.
She speaks and I am stunned. Her voice is much different from what it was just ten months ago when we were sitting on the couch counting down the seconds until the New Year, a new beginning for us all. I begin to question how her voice has always sounded. She speaks with a sense of calmness that I have never before heard from her; careful she is with her words, gentle she is with her tone. Before me, I see a powerful yet weak, bold yet shy, loud but fragile woman. Before me, I see a woman who I have looked up to as strength and beauty my whole life and here she stands looking like a sliver of life itself. Before me, I see my best friend, the image I have spit of in quite possibly every way and even in her weakest time I see a woman full of life.
She tries to squeal, raise her voice, work up the courage to make it seem as if everything is normal when it is apparent that everything is far from it. A peep of the Aug I once remember emerges and my heart begins to feel confused. Sad, lonely, and empty yet warm, full, and fuzzy. I am so grateful to be there before her in this moment.
She invites us to sit down and chat with us so she can rest. She tells us about her sickness, her life lately, about what the future will mean for her if she has one and she is blatantly honest, a characteristic I have always admired about her, yet somehow the truth still seems to be sugar-coated today. She talks about the doctors at the hospital knowing her, her new plan, and vaguely about the months before. She says that her doctors are afraid that she may be nearing the end of her own road, yet she says this statement with hope. And she cries. She puts her head into her frail hands and silently sobs for a few moments. She looks into the distance and says “I don’t want to die.” My heart is shattered as is hers and clearly the rest of the people in her company, or so I assume. How does one feel whole after hearing a statement so vulnerable, deep, so raw? She says she is scared and in that moment so am I. Scared; scared for my mom and her husband and for her mom and mostly for the lifeless life that sits before me. Together, in this room, we are weak in it’s purest form. She wipes her tears and aims to shove the mini-meltdown aside.
Mom says if we are going to cry we will not make the trip up to see her; we are not going to be sad she says. Yet here she is, wiping away her tears too and in this moment, I realize she too is weak. I hurt for her too.
She speaks again saying “If I’m going to die, I want to die in style,” showing us pictures of the new boots, bags, and sweaters she has just recently purchased. And in this moment, I know we are related, united, bonded in was until now I have clearly taken for granted. I am thankful in ways I hadn’t known until now for this twenty-four-hour trip.
My heart aches in ways I hadn’t known possible until now and I worry for our family.
I am left thinking about Aug’s impact on my life in such a short amount of years. I am left baffled with sadness and wisdom, sympathy and love. I am left with prayer and a hope so strong for a better path- one of healing and enlightenment. I am left with an “ I love you too, McKenz” and a heart so full for the woman before me.”
What hurts the most about this last memory with you is that yes this is the Aug I have always loved and have come to admire but this was not you, Aug. This was so far from you- this was cancer, and illness- sickness written all over.
It is hard to put into words the feelings of final moments like this one because frankly, moments like this one are the kind that leave you numb. These are the moments that you don’t know will be the final ones.
You are doing well after these past few weekends, or so you are acting—exchanging Christmas lists, texting about our State cheer competition, chatting on the phone about our latest bargains. And then suddenly you are not.
Monday, November 27, 2017, my heart truly aches in ways it has never felt before at the loss of you. I have felt pain many, many times in life before but never a pain quite like this one. This one is so different, so raw, so deeply woven into my heart. It hurts knowing we will never have a Saturday morning phone call again, another thrifting adventure, another blogging birthday, another New Year’s Eve celebration, another day matching in our beaves, another conversation on one of my blog posts, another weekend visit together. It hurts knowing you won’t be there for the big things—prom, graduation, my last game ever. It hurts knowing how badly everyone is hurting.
And yet in some way, there is no greater feeling than knowing that we are hurting. Hurting because, Aug, you were the women that embodied every quality a person could ever hope to attain in life. You were the woman that was fruitful in strength, abounding in beauty, plentiful in wisdom, bountiful in humor, and rich in love. You were the light in a dark room, the hope in a five-year cancer patient, the best friend I could have ever asked for, the angel God said I needed.
Missing you already + sending you every ounce of my love from the other side. I’m going to make you proud, Aug; I promise.
With a whole lot of love, McKenz
*Again, a big thank you to my family, friends, and blogging community for the love, condolences, and prayers you have sent my way over the last week. I am more than thankful for your support as I grieve the loss of my aunt.