There are 540 kilometres between my office and my aunt’s house.
Last week, my office was full of meetings, big ideas and little frustrations, posturing and punning. My aunt’s house was empty.
I didn’t leave the office in a hurry, because I thought I had more time. I thought I could drive to the city, have some dinner and get some rest before going to the hospital. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad for the time I had, especially for those last few hours spent mostly driving and reflecting.
I could tell you stories about my aunt, like that time she leaned over her crutches and said, “Look how you’re growing! If you get taller than me, I won’t be able to talk to you” and I prayed I’d stop growing right then. Or how our little shih tzu Chen would sit at her feet on her electric wheelchair with his underbite exposed and his hair blowing in the wind and she’d laugh that laugh. Or how I knew she was okay with my distaste of the phone and was always, always eager to open my letters and emails. I would find — later, going through her things with my cousin and not crying — that she kept every photo I had ever sent. Some of them were framed.
I had all those hours to tell those stories to myself, and laugh, and think about what I’d say when I got to the hospital. My cousin called when I was about an hour outside the city and I told her my plans.
“There isn’t going to be a tomorrow,” she told me. “Come now, but get here safely.”
Those two phrases kept running over and over in my head as I navigated the 401: There isn’t going to be a tomorrow. Get here safely.
There isn’t going to be a tomorrow.
Get here safely.
There were all these things I had wanted to say and all the things I’d practiced saying, but when I saw her there, a shadow of my most precious aunt, I smiled and said, “I’ve just come to say hello,” because there was no way in the world I was going to say goodbye.
And we sat with her, a few of us representing her larger family, who were there in spirit. We told more stories, and we got a little boisterous, and it felt exactly the same as it did those times we sat in her apartment and squeezed as much of our lives into two or three hours as we could.
I thought I had more time. But in the end — at the very end — we had just enough.