"She's in Heaven now. Remember when Michael Jackson went to sleep? Well Aunt Doris went to sleep like that," my mother said, trying to help my sister understand. My sister loved Michael Jackson. Her mind is smart enough to know that dear old MJ was in a different place. But, what my sister couldn't figure out was why MJ went there, or the finality that death meant. Who could blame her for the confusion. My mom told her Michael Jackson was in heaven but she pull him up on her IPAD or DVD whenever she wanted. Down Syndrome just couldn't put all those pieces of the puzzle together.
I have to admit the thought my Mississippi bred Aunt Doris sitting next to the King of Pop in heaven, and the Almighty was more than a little amusing. But, this was my mother's first attempt at explaining to my sister that Aunt Doris was gone, and there was no humor in that I sat in the back seat of our family SUV trying to conceal my sobbing. We were heading home to say our goodbyes to my Aunt Doris, and provide some comfort to the family she left behind..
My mom, brother, sister, and I were cramped in out family SUV headed to her funeral in Mississippi. Each mile, each state we passed through it became very real, and very clear that Auntie wasn't coming back from her latest battle with cancer.
We wouldn't get to call her on speaker phone and fill her in on our lives. We couldn't count down til the next time we would hug her again. And, we'd never hear her voice, or see her face again. I'm not sure my sister will ever fully digest these thoughts well. God blessed her with a simple mind, one that on some level knows the order of things are off. Aunt Doris has not picked up her phone calls, and Mom has explained that Auntie Doris was sick, and sleeping in the hospital. But, God didn't give my sister the ability to understand what passing away really meant... I think there is some beauty in that.
My darling Aunt Doris passed on July 31st. But she had long prepared us for what was to come. After seemingly beating breast cancer, Stage 4 Lung Cancer took what little fight she had in her left. I'm still haunted by the fact that she knew her battle was coming to an end. Three weeks before she passed, she told my mother she was dying, and had made peace with God's plan for her. She then asked to speak to me. I could hear she was on a breathing machine, and could hardly speak. But, she mustered up enough strength to say what would be our last words together.
"Mena, I love you so much baby. And, I'm so proud of you. I don't want you to stop living because of this. Promise me you live Mena, live your life to the fullest, and become all God wants you to be."
I nodded, not ready to accept that she was slowly saying her goodbye to me. I'm left wishing I had more time to tell her how much she meant to me. I always imagined she would see me get married, hold my first child, come to my first book signing. I dreamt she'd leave the simple country roads of Mississippi, and live with her sons, see her children's children grow up.
I loved her for reasons I can't explain. I loved her for mothering my mother, and for befriending my sister Sara. My sister shared all of her special thoughts with my Auntie. Doris always answered the phone, even when the cancer started taking her voice, and I know it broke her heart that she can't be around for my sister anymore.
The last time she talked to me, she asked a very grand yet simple thing of me. " You make me so proud," she said. " You doing this t.v thing, finding Christ, and beating back the haters who try to pull you down, I'm so proud of you. Promise me you'll live Lauren. You jump out on faith, pray, and God will take care of the rest." I knew what she said was true cause Aunt Doris always had a direct line to Jesus and his Papa. You have my promise Aunt Doris - I intend to soak in everything God has for me. While you're up there in Heaven- tell God thank you for giving me a woman like you. And, tell Michael Jackson Sara adores him : )