My beautiful aunt Mimi died this morning at the age of 89.
I am crying as I write this. The winds are crazy today. Through the window, I can see dust devils rising in the back yard, dust swirling across the ground, and I feel those same storms inside myself--raw and wild and disorienting. I'm grateful for the wind, though, grateful for my feelings, grateful for the people in my life.
My sister and her daughter were in town from Toronto all of last week (I miss them so much now!!!) Our parents took us whale watching. We spent about an hour and a half on the sea without seeing anything but water (ripply, pewter, powerful water.) I made peace with the fact that we probably weren't going to see any whales; at least we were all together, enjoying the sea air, the motion of the boat, the day. Then we happened upon a pod of dolphins. And not a small pod. I'm talking hundreds of dolphins. They leaped towards us, swooped under the boat, raced the boat, surrounded us with muscular joy. They looked so happy, their bodies sleek and dappled, their bellies white. And we could hear them talking--clicks and whistles and squeaks. What a pleasure and honor to hear their language. My sister later told me that she had always worried that humans had irrevocably fucked up our planet, but when she saw these dolphins, she realized that the world was doing okay, that we hadn't ruined everything, that the planet was still a beautiful and amazing place.
And it is. But it's so hard to imagine it without Mimi. I last saw her two years ago when I was on tour for The Book of Dead Birds. I was in Olympia, WA to give a reading at my cousin's bookstore, De Colores (my cousins are amazing, by the way. The whole story behind the bookstore is detailed at the site.) I developed a coughing fit during the reading, and Mimi gave me a strawberries and cream life saver to soothe my throat. She was always doing whatever she could to help people--she was the sweetest, most generous woman, with the softest skin and the cutest voice. It was a gift to spend a couple of days with her and her family. I remember when we said goodbye and I watched her walk slowly up the stairs to her apartment, I worried it was the last time I would ever see her. It breaks my heart that this proved to be true. And it breaks my heart that I didn't speak with her while she was in the hospital (although we sent messages back and forth through my dad.) She kept her sense of humor and grace until the very end.
She was going to turn 90 in May. A huge birthday celebration was planned in Washington, the same weekend as my cousin Sahra's wedding--it was going to be (and still will be, I'm sure) a wonderful family gathering. Now instead of celebrating Mimi's birthday with Mimi present, we'll celebrate her whole life in her absence.
I miss her already.
An update: I learned later that my incredible cousin Bobby arranged to have Mimi's body taken back to her apartment for the rest of the day. He didn't want her to go directly from the hospital to the funeral home; it felt too impersonal. I didn't know it was possible to do such a thing, but he was able to bring her home and put her in her own bed for a few hours so friends and family could sit with her on her home turf, in her warm apartment. I find this one of the sweetest, most beautiful things I've ever heard. If I wasn't 2,000 miles away, I would have been there, for sure. I keep hearing Mimi's voice in my head, keep remembering our holidays together when I was a girl, keep virtually walking through her apartment, with its beaded doorway and the silk pillows on wheels, keep remembering all she taught me about generosity and kindness.
Thank you to everyone who emailed condolences; I'm very grateful.