Also like a hobbit Aunt Mary loved to eat. Eating was about her most favorite thing in the world to do. She could recount with absolute delight every last detail of every meal she ate down to the number of sweet –n- lows she put in her coffee. Aunt Mary also enjoyed napping. She could fall asleep on a dime. This was probably due in part to the medication that she took for her mental disabilities.
Aunt Mary loved to watch game shows, especially “Wheel of Fortune”. Whenever she was able to guess the phrase that matched Vanna White’s she would bounce up and down on her chair clapping her hands with sheer joy. Her voice raised up about 5 octaves and she would squeal out with utter delight “I won”, “I won”. Then she would call out to me (or anyone else that was around) – “Oh Romainey I won I won!” I would tell her “That’s great Mary!” and wish to myself that I could get that excited about anything in my life as much as Aunt Mary did when she “won” the game show.
Aunt Mary also enjoyed music and singing. Whenever she heard a tune that moved her she would make a fist with her right hand and point out her index finger and then wave her finger around like a baton directing the flow of the music. She also loved to sing along with the songs too. Although she was not blessed with a pleasant singing voice or the ability to hit notes and sing on key that didn’t stop her. She would croon along with wild abandon to every tune she liked. She also knew the lyrics to a tremendous number of songs and would start spontaneously singing whenever the spirit moved her. She was kind of like a savant when it came to remembering songs and song lyrics.
Many years ago I asked Aunt Mary if she could be any animal which one would she would be. To my surprise she told me without hesitation that she would be a bird so she could fly. I was startled by her answer. As far as I knew her world consisted of napping, eating, singing and watching the game shows. I never thought of her as having the ability to think outside of her own reality or even having the capability to want more out of life than what she had. Yet given the opportunity her imagination took her towards the sky. She wanted to fly! Did this mean she had hopes and dreams and aspirations like the rest of us? Did this mean she wanted more out of life than “winning” the game shows each night? All this time that I knew her I never imagined that her spirit might long for grace and freedom and flight.
During the last years of her life Mary suffered from the inability to properly swallow her food and often had violent aspirations when she ate. Right before she died Aunt Mary needed to go into the hospital for some colon surgery. The night before the surgery she suffered a violent aspiration and lost consciousness. She never woke up again. The neurologists determined she was brain dead and my mom made the painful decision to take her off of life support. Her doctors thought she would die within a matter of hours once she was unhooked from the respirator, but she held on for a week.
When I heard of Mary’s condition I decided to fly back East to say good bye and be with my mom through this sad time. My mother loved and was devoted to Aunt Mary. In many ways she related to her like she was one of her kids since she had been taking care of her for the last 44 years. I wanted to be with my mom during this time because I had just lost Rick and knew the importance of having your loved ones around you when someone you love is dying. Plus I also wanted a chance to see Aunt Mary one more time before she left us.
Aunt Mary was still hanging on when I got back there, even though everyone expected that she would have passed by then. At one point while I was visiting Aunt Mary my mom and a small group from the church were there too. Since Mary loved to sing we decided to sing her favorite song to her - “You Are My Sunshine”. While we were singing I saw tears flow down her cheeks. I wondered if she could hear us. While I was singing the memory came back to me of that day long ago when she told me that she would like to be a bird so she could fly. I whispered in her ear “Fly away home little bird, it’s your time now.” When I had to leave a few days later Aunt Mary was still holding on. I found out that she passed away while I was flying back home to Portland.
A day or two after I returned from my trip I was in the park walking my dog. There is one area of the park that is a wide open grassy field for the dogs to play in. This area is surrounded by bushes on one side. I was walking over by the bushes when I heard the loud chirping of a bird. I felt like this bird was trying to get me attention, I could feel it. I walked towards the sound of the tweeting and there perched on one of the bushes at eye level with me was a plump little light brown bird emphatically chirping away. I really felt like it was trying to tell me something, so I stood there for a while and the bird remained perched at her spot tweeting away at me. Wild birds usually don’t get that close so I was intrigued. I stood there for a while longer and the bird continued to stay with me, chirping at me all the time. I decided to move on and walked along the edge of the bushes. As I moved towards the next bush the bird followed me and perched right in front of me on this bush, still tweeting away. I stayed a while at bush number two and then I started walking again and it followed me and landed on the next bush that was closest to me and continued chirping and tweeting away.
I took a good look at the bird. It was small and plump and singing its heart out. Who else did I know that was small plump and loved to sing her heart out too – Aunt Mary! This little one reminded me so much of Aunt Mary that I am sure it was a sign from her letting me know that she made it to other side. The little bird finally got her chance to fly.