A year ago...
I just realized it's been a little over a year since I last saw my Aunt - I saw her April 11, 2010; she died of pancreatic cancer on April 16, 2010. Seeing her for the last time, and saying my goodbyes sort of soured me on the whole "goodbye" thing. Between seeing Marjorie in her last days, and seeing my grandmother (cancer's a bitch) I don't know that I'm necessarily one for "in person" goodbyes.
The dying don't look or sound like the people they were... and even though the memories of them in their last days are snippets of a couple hours, they supersede an entire lifetime of knowing the people as healthy, vibrant, funny people. If I knew then what I know now, I'm not sure I would have seen my grandmother or my Aunt - now my memories of them are tainted with the rattling, dozing creatures they became in their last days, incapable of constructing a sentence, incapable of moving. It's an odd feeling - seeing the dried out husk of someone you love, and wishing that death would just COME already to spare them the agony of living.
When people I love leave me voicemails, I save at least one. My grandmother died before I had a cell phone (imagine that!) so I don't have any recordings of her voice -- I think there are a couple of VHS tapes from 1987 that have her in the background...
My aunt left me a couple of voicemails in 2009 that I had saved -- not for any real reason -- it's just that I didn't get around to deleting them -- until I found out shortly thereafter that she had pancreatic cancer and was absolutely going to die. Soon. At which point the messages became sacrosanct.
And I figured they would just stay in my inbox until... I died.
Then, the other day, AT&T, in their abundant benevolence, informed me that it would be deleting all of my voicemails that were over 30 days old, and that if I wanted to save 'em, I'd have to upgrade to the latest operating system. Which I did. To no avail, because I couldn't send or otherwise save the voicemails. After a couple useless calls to AT&T, and a hectic weekend, I was grateful to see that the messages were still on my phone this evening.
So, I turned to a friend, who loaned me her iPhone for 2 minutes so I could play the voicemails to her recorder, save the two messages and send them to myself as text messages.
I now have a Mashup of Auntie Marjorie singing me happy birthday from 2009, my 29th birthday. It's funny - seeing my dying aunt in April, 2010 feels like yesterday, but I can barely remember the day she called me and sang to me.
I texted my cousin earlier this evening that if she or her brother ever wanted the Mashup, it was theirs for the taking. There was radio silence for a while, and, "Oh please send them thank you very much." So I texted her the file, - which she can share with her brother, if he wants. Now everybody can have a staticky cell-phone recording of my year-dead aunt, singing me "Happy Birthday."
"Thank you so much" was my cousin's response. I told my cousin to tell my aunt I miss her if she visited her on the 16th (I didn't stay in Boston for the funeral - I was actually up for another cousin's wedding the last time I saw my Aunt, and just assumed she'd be buried somewhere on Baker Street in West Roxbury). The response I got was that she would -- as my Aunt is still in the living room.
On the mantle.
Always one to buck tradition, and question authority (in this case, Halacha [Jewish law], of course she is.