Monday, April 28, 2014

You think about your aunt.

You lie awake at night, unable to sleep, and try to find a still place inside. But all you feel is an emptiness, a vacuum where something used to be, closely followed by fear: that everyone you love will slip through your fingers eventually, no matter how tightly you hold on whether taken by disease, or a car accident, or quietly in the night, like some ghastly magic trick.

You think about how your dad wept openly on the phone when you spoke on the morning following his sister's death, how it was the first time you’d ever heard him really cry, how grief can connect the living, which is at least something beautiful amidst the pain and confusion.

But mostly, you think about your aunt. The sound of her voice. The way her pretty blue eyes crinkled when she laughed. How absurd it is that these things no longer exist. You think about all the times you were together, how few there seem to have been, and of a life you were really only aware of in your peripheral vision.

You think about her diagnosis in October, about how hopeful she seemed; about her 60th birthday party in November, how happy she seemed. If you’d known it was the last time you were ever going see her, would you have said or done something differently?

You think about her sons (your cousins), her husband (your uncle), and how devastated they must be, how robbed they must feel, how utterly inadequate anything anyone says or does is in the face of that kind of grief. You want this to make you feel more appreciative of all the love in your life, of everything you still have, but mostly you just feel afraid, because you finally understand that all things end: eventually, surreally, pointlessly. You joke that you’re having an existential crisis, but it’s more like an existential malaise, a slow-burn disillusionment. But you also understand that these times are probably necessary, and like quicksand it’s best not to struggle against them.

You can’t make the memorial service the last-minute flights to Joburg cost more than you can afford but you drive up to Calitzdorp a few days later to be with your parents, to talk about your aunt, to remember her, toast her. You hug your dad and don’t want to let go, because … who knows?

You spend time in your mom’s herb garden, you go for walks at dusk, you take in the ancient beauty of the Klein Karoo. You try to snap out of it, and almost succeed. 

But in the dark, quiet hours, these thoughts still rattle around your head like dice in a cup, and you know you need to get them out, to write them down. So you put on your dressing gown, close the bedroom door quietly on your sleeping husband, pick up a pen, a writing pad, and tip-toe to the couch...

You think about your aunt, Dianne MacLarty Van Dyk.


  1. Beautiful Rob; lump in my throat...

  2. This is beautiful, my friend. Cheers to your wonderful aunt! xxx