Time is man-made and capricious, passing when we are content and inevitably tedious when bored. Growing up, I hadn’t had a concrete notion of the word time. I did things accordingly, or spontaneously; I never had to think about it.
I remember sitting in the back of my dad’s Cadillac as we pulled into the parking lot of our apartments. There was this expression on his face, different from his usual stolid one that made my sister and I exchange looks.
We knew something was different. I tapped him on his shoulder and his eyes closed briefly.
“We just found out your Aunt Meysha’s got stage four cancer.” He finally spoke after a few moments of silence. A lump formed in my throat as I tried to swallow down what he’d just said.” I’m going out to Atlanta this weekend to help move her back out here. I’ll have your cousin Roe stay with you guys.
My sister and I entered the house behind my father. His generally tall and proud stance was sluggish and tired. The rest of the night as expected was silent; tension thick in the air. I wasn’t sure how to react to the news, but my mind was swarming with questions. What could I say? What could I do to comfort my dad?
The next morning my sister Tess and I had the idea to make him breakfast in bed. There was this small smile that graced his face at the sight of food. We knew there was nothing we could do to mend his heart right then, but we would try. “Thank you girls, I love you.”
Weeks, then months had passed since we’d heard the news. We visited my aunt in the hospital frequently and at my grandfathers’ house when she was better. It seemed crazy to me how I hadn’t spoken to my aunt three years prior to her diagnosis, and in just a couple of weeks, she’d become my every other thought.
I talked with her about everything from my troubles in school to my love life whenever I saw her. Each time we spoke I began to notice how lovely she was. It started to make me nauseous when I thought about how she was suffering from cancer.
I prayed in my bed for her when I was alone in my room at night. “Lord, I don’t ask for much, but right now my Aunt is fighting through stage four cancer and we really need your blessing. Her brothers need your blessing, her father, her kids, and her nieces.”
In July 2016 I got a phone call from my dad telling my sister and me to get dressed. I groaned, not wanting to go anywhere that day but obliged anyway. My two older cousins were in the car to pick us up when I came downstairs. I rode silently but curiously in the car. There were loads of people outside on the lawn when we arrived at their house. My dad spotted us getting out of the car and ushered us inside of a room.
His dark, glossy eyes alarmed me. I tried not to overthink, but it was hard when the strongest man I knew looked so vulnerable in front of me.
His eyebrows furrowed and he tried to suppress his emotions as he tried to gather his words. However, when my sister and I hugged him, he turned into a sobbing mess. I wanted to be strong but I couldn’t hold my tears back either. I didn’t even have to look at Tess to know she was shaken up beside me too.
That was the first time in all my thirteen years that I’d seen him cry that I’d seen him hurt. Waves of sadness, guilt, hurt, and anger all surged over me as I stood in that room.
That evening I went home and cursed at the sky. I was overwhelmed by my own emotions. “Lord, I prayed to you about a million times since Aunt Meysha moved down here. How could you let cancer do this to somebody like her? She has kids!” Everything after that was blurry. I fell asleep with dried up, uneven tear streaks on my face.
The day of the funeral seemed like the worst day of my life. From the limousine ride there to everyone starring hopelessly at the casket, hoping Aunt Meysha would pop up and say, kidding, she was only in a coma. The pastors’ words were only noises to me as he spoke and my mind was everywhere else except where It was supposed to be. There were so many things I hadn’t got to share with her and never would. After months of battling cancer and coming so close to the finish line, how could she be just be gone? How was that fair?
I glanced over at my dad who’d been crying non-stop which made my heart sink further in my chest. I leaned on my sister’s shoulder and grabbed a tissue from someone who’d offered me one.
Tess slept in my dad’s room that night because she reminded him most of Meysha. I didn’t sleep at all. Every time I closed my eyes, Aunt Meysha would appear. My cousins would appear. Her pale, but beautiful body lying in the casket would appear.
it was a combination of guilt and grief that consumed me along with insomnia. I was broken that she was gone, but I felt even worse because I should’ve had more time with her. I should’ve been calling her and checking up like a normal family member. We should’ve had more memories.
I wept silently into a pillow, knees bent into my chest, thinking about how those five little months we spent together only felt like a minute. That moment, three years ago, I’d gained an actual conception of what time was.
Time is man-made and capricious, fleeting when we are content and inevitably tedious when bored. We must cherish time, savor it, and never underestimate it’s essence when It comes to the people we love, because just like that It’s gone.