Bea died yesterday. It was expected: she was 79, had breathing problems for years, and the leukemia that was in remission came back for a vindictive final round. She started chemo – her kidneys started to shut down with treatment – her body wasn’t able to take on the added stress. So she went home.
No one seem to know what flavor of leukemia she had, but I would assume CLL because of her age. Saying you have leukemia is like saying, “I drive a Ford.” Well, are we talking an Escort, Mustang, or F750?
Bea was the wife of my 2nd cousin (once removed!), Austin. He was old enough to be my grandfather and we spent many of our summers up at his cottage on the shores of Lake Huron in Michigan. He took my sister and I out trolling in the lake and was generally a blast to be around. Austin cooked the most amazing perch, after we caught it, and was one of those jovial souls who loved to be around kids.
Bea and Austin got married after he came back from a tour in Korea (circa early 1950’s) and together they had 5 children, who are pretty successful (engineers, doctors, etc) with scores of grandkids. One is even adopted from overseas. They loved spending time at the cottages, their home in Detroit, and with their kids. They lead a very full and enriching life that touched many.
And now she’s gone. I’m not as upset as I should be – or feel I should be. I don’t do well with death or funerals. I spoke with her on the phone last fall and after 15 minutes, she was out of breath and tired. Luckily, they got to meet The General 3 years ago – we had dinner at their house and it was lovely.
The funeral is this Friday. I’m tempted to fly in for it; my mom is going, as she was extremely close with them growing up. Mom lives in Illinois, which is a feasible drive to Detroit. Me, on the other hand, would have to fly. It’s a 14 hour drive from here to there that I would have to do by myself; The General is heading to his homeland this weekend to meet up with family he hasn’t seen since the 1st Bush Administration. What’s holding me back is the money and work bit.
While I have the money to easily make the trip if I dip into my savings (again); I also have nearly $1,000 in dental work to pay as well as brakes on my car: something I should have done last month. I just scored a random 3 days off, and then working through the weekend, starting tomorrow. We’re short at work. I’d have to be back Saturday in time to be at work, mainly because I volunteered this weekend and we still don’t have enough to run the place.
Funerals are for the living. I want to be there to support Austin and my mom. I always take the work part in these things: I didn’t go to my grandmother’s funeral because of school. I didn’t go see my sister in the hospital when she had a suicide attempt because of school and my mom said it wasn’t necessary for me to be there: in hindsight, I needed to be there for my mom because my dad wasn’t. I regret that. Ah, but when you’re in your early 20’s, sometimes you don’t think about those things. That’s perspective I have now that I’m older and have been through more.
And then there’s the part where Austin is going to be surrounded by his kids, grandkids, and other well-wishers and I know he is going to be overwhelmed as it is. I’d rather spend time with him away from all the craziness of a funeral: it’s like a wedding. You’re so preoccupied with what’s going on that you can’t always see everyone. But is that a more selfish reason for me?
I’m going to talk to Mom today and get her perspective on it.
Then again, maybe the General and I can head up there this summer and go to the cottage with Austin and fam. I haven’t done that since my youth because I want that memory to stay pristine and not record over it. It will be different now that my Grandma and Bea are gone.
I’m sure they’re having coffee looking over the lake now, laughing about the old times, just as they always did.