When we left on our world trip, my biggest cheer leader was my aunt, my mama’s baby sister.
All three sisters – my mama, my godmother, and my aunt – are renowned for their wilfulness (some may call them stubborn, perhaps even bossy 🙂 ). It’s possible that my aunt Gertrud, the baby of the family, was the most bossy of them all. She also had a great big heart and a sense of adventure that led her all around the globe.
I didn’t know her so well growing up, but I got to spend more time with her as an adult when I lived in Switzerland and I loved the woman I got to know – direct, strong, caring, warm and a great lover of life. She celebrated the idea of the highly ambitious world trip that Roman and I were embarking on. Unlike some people in our lives we tried to explain our idea to, she never hesitated for a moment in giving our plan her full endorsement and us her unabashed encouragement and I have been so grateful for that support.
She was very ill when she left and she passed while we were still in Asia.
It feels entirely unreal to me that I will be returning to Switzerland and that I won’t be able to hop on the train to visit her and tell her all about the fabulous places that we got to visit in Asia that she never saw, compare notes about both our experiences in the Galapagos, ask her for recommendations from her travels for our next trip (yes, we’re already dreaming of a sequel). I have a hard time comprehending that she won’t be there when I get back.
(Ok, let’s be honest. I HATE it that she won’t be there when I get back. I am ok with it because you have to be but still I HATE it.)
I mean, of course I understand that she’s gone. But some days, the precise sound of her voice still echoes through my brain as though I’d just gotten off the phone with her seconds ago. The feel of her personality is still imprinted so firmly on my heart. She has been in my thoughts at so many of the most beautiful places we visited on the trip. For me she is SO present.
So it feels wrong to me to speak about her in the past tense.
My mama and I were talking about her just this morning while I was helping her make her bed and I started to say something about my aunt and I found myself semi-consciously mumbling the verb in the sentence because my heart couldn’t decide between “is” and “was”.
Saying “Gertrud is so ….” feels like I’m being wilfully ignorant (wilfulness being a trait I am proud to have inherited from the strong women in my lineage). But saying “Gertrud was” feels even more wrong and also inaccurate. How can someone who is so very PRESENT with me be described in the PAST tense? I just doesn’t work for me.
So I need a new tense, one that can let me talk about the people I love with all my heart who may not be here in the world but who are very much here with me, today and always. Not entirely sure what I’ll say while who ever is in charge of the English language sorts that out for me but in the mean time, I will be (stubborn and proud of it) keeping Gertrud PRESENT in my thoughts and heart. ❤❤❤