I lost an aunt today.

I’ve always thought of losing a loved one as something that happened to other people. I don’t mean to sound cruel or anything, I just never quite experienced it first-hand. I lost a grandfather when I was in junior high school. We were never close so I really didn’t feel the loss. I lost another a couple of years ago. I’d never met him, but I spoke to him once. He called on my mother’s phone and I picked up. He said he was my grandfather. I was like “Cool.” No biggie. I lost another grandfather recently. I think it’s been a year now… or close. He was such a witty, kindhearted fellow. I don’t particularly miss him, but he was a great man.

I lost an uncle last month. He wasn’t really an uncle, but in Ghana, a lot of older people are called uncles and aunties, especially if they are family friends. It’s polite. We were much closer about a decade ago when he was trying to marry my auntie. He would take us out (my little siblings and I), for ice-cream and pizza. We would get chocolate too. He was a police officer so he would disarm his gun and let us hold it sometimes. He was cool. But we haven’t spoken in years. I can’t even remember the last time I heard from him. Of all the people who would feel his absence, I am probably on the bottom of that list.

A friend lost her dad two summers ago. I was heartbroken. I’d never met her father. But I loved her. I love her. She has a big heart and a fiery spirit. We don’t talk so often, but she means a great deal to me. And for her to lose someone so dear… It just broke my heart. At the funeral, she talked about how cool her dad was, and I realized, regardless of how strong she is, or how formidable her family is, their lives would never be the same again. To lose a parent, especially when you have a special bond with them that goes beyond their giving birth to you, is a big deal. I would know. I lost a father this year. Not to death, though at this point I could care less. But to a lot of wickedness and cruelty. So he’s lost to me (and my family).

I have lost quite a number of people in my short life. Some I’d only remember one day when I am telling stories about them and then remember that they are not with us anymore.

I lost an aunt today. She’s family. We are not bound by blood, but she’s been there since day one. As we grew older, our families hang out less often because we live and work on opposite sides of town. But love doesn’t care about time and distance and all its nuances. As it should be.

Losing a loved one is not something that happens to an unnamed, nondescript group of people whose feelings, in no way, directly affect mine. It’s not something that happens in a vague unforeseeable future when you are ready to deal with it like a “grown-up”. It’s something that happens to all of us. It might happen when you least expect it. Or even if you are prepared for it. And it hurts. It really, really, hurts.

Today, I lost an aunt. Her children lost a mother. Her husband lost his wife. Her family and friends lost a loved one. My mother lost one of her oldest and best friends. Our lives would never be the same.

Today is my mother’s birthday.

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