Tomorrow is August 17th.
Eight years ago tomorrow, my aunt who raised me in the place of my parents (my father has never been in my life and my mother, her sister, died when I was nine; they are another story for another time) died. She was 67. I was 30.
Her illness was abrupt and sudden; I had to call an ambulance to our home (my oldest son and I were living with her after my divorce) on the 15th, and she died the morning of the 17th of stage 4 uterine cancer that we didn't even know she had.
I have written about those 48 hours other times in my life in more detail and this blog isn't about those painful days, days that honestly will still haunt me at times when I least expect it. When I am suddenly taken back to having to make the decision to cut care, when there was nothing else to do because the disease and the pain was too great. To when I watched her blood pressure go down to 70/30, and when I held her hand as she slipped from this life into the next.
This actually isn't about any of that.
This is about how angry I am.
I find that one of the things that people don't talk about is how anger and grief dance so closely together. I have been through death before; like I said, my mother died when I was only nine. My grandmother and two of my uncles also died when I was a child. I have friends who have died, I have miscarried several times. None of that, though, prepared me for the anger I feel over my aunts death. The searing rage that I still feel eight years later, that lives side by side with the sadness and the pain.
I'm angry that she had been talking about having pain for a long time, and I begged her to go to the doctor but she wouldn't go.
I'm angry that she lived with that pain for so long and we had no clue what it was.
I'm angry that once she finally agreed to let me take her to the emergency room, just ten days before she died, that the care she got was shameful, and she was horribly fat shamed, age shamed, and taken for a hypochondriac.
I'm angry that I have a husband and two children that she never got to meet, and I have a beautiful teenager that she only saw for six years, that still had pain in his voice when he speaks of her because he was so close to her.
I'm angry that enough years have passed since her death that I do not and cannot romanticize our relationship anymore and there will never be any opportunity to repair some of the cracks and complications and things that were broken.
I'm angry that I'm not even 40, and I have no mother figure in my life to lean on.
I'm angry that she is GONE.
It feels like when someone dies we aren't supposed to talk about those emotions, that somehow it is tainting the memory of someone or it is something that we shouldn't feel. We are often made to think that speaking about the more negative side of death means you aren't coping well or you are just not "doing it right". That your faith isn't strong enough, that you heart isn't strong enough.
Death is not one-dimensional. There are so many emotions that happen, especially when it is sudden. I know in the last eight years I have felt so many different emotions, but my anger has always been the one that frightened me. I think for a long time I was afraid to really talk about my anger about it, but this year I feel it spilling over, to the point of where I either had to let it come forth or I would choke on it.
That is why I decided to write this, to pour those feelings out and not let them consume me. Because anger is natural, it's human, and going to happen; it's only an issue when you let it eat you alive.
This is my note to anyone out there who is experiencing anger with their grief; know that you aren't alone. Know that it is okay. Know that you have to let your feelings come as they flow. They are valid. They are real.
And so on the anniversary of her death tomorrow, I will be thinking about all of those things that make me angry, but I also will be thinking about my love for her, the love that she had for me, and how much she is missed.