Yesterday was my Aunt Rocel‘s memorial service. She died on April 10 of ovarian cancer. She was 58 years old.
Rocel was one of those people whose beauty took you by surprise. She was kind, gentle and humble, generous and loving–one of those people who made you want to be a better person.
I write this with little baby James sleeping in a sling against my chest. (I think he’s napping extra long to let me finish this post.) I am thinking about birth and death and how we are all hovering somewhere in between.
In my twenties I thought a lot about living hard. You know that Jack Kerouac quote:
The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.
I related to that.
But lately, I’ve been rather mad for the commonplace things. The way James stretches like a boxer when he wakes up. My mom texting me every day “need daily James picture please”. My dad calling to scold me when I forget to include him on said daily James picture text. Walking downtown with James to meet Dan for lunch on this beautiful sunny spring day.
I’ve been thinking more about loving hard than living hard.
I remember talking to Rocel soon after she was diagnosed with cancer and going through her first round of treatment. She told me how through the terribleness of it all–the diagnosis, the treatment–she and her husband, my Uncle David, had uncovered a new layer in the marriage. How they had become so much closer. I remember how she told me how much it meant to her that he would just let her cry.
I was engaged to marry Dan at the time. There was so much we didn’t know. (There’s so much we still don’t know!) I thought about how we would have find faith and strength in struggle — how we would have find each other.
Rocel passed away while I was in Florida with Dan and James, my parents, and my brother and sister in law. We went to the beach the morning after she died and it was so beautiful. James slept on my chest and then Dan’s and then my mom’s and then dad’s. The ocean was crazy turquoise blue and that perfect chilly but warm temperature. What can you do in a place like that, on a day like that, but hold on as tightly you as you can to the time you have with the people you love? So that’s how I will honor her today and every day. By seeking out faith in the struggle and loving as hard as my little heart can bear.