My mother has just called me from Cape Town with the news that my sole surviving aunt had died there this morning.  She was the wife of my mother’s only brother, with whom she had a loving, respectful marriage.  Their children, a boy and girl, were a wonderful product of that happy union.  My aunt had been a widow for what must be approaching twenty years now.  She was a gracious and elegant woman, with a beautifully modulated voice and a low, measured way of speaking.  When my family spent summer holidays in East London in the Eastern Cape, where my uncle was the headmaster of a prominent boys’ school, my aunt was always so kind and welcoming to me when I would go to play with my girl cousin, who was just a year older than I, and with whom I later shared digs in Cape Town prior to her emigrating to New Zealand and me to America.  My cousin had been able to be in Cape Town with her mother at the end, and had visited her in March as well, so she has that comfort.  Still, I can only imagine both my cousins’ grief.  And my mother’s too.  She now remains the only one of her generation in our extended family, and I think that weighs on her.  Naturally, my thoughts turn to mortality in these circumstances and, in what may be a cowardly act, I close my mind to the reality.  My father died thirty-six years ago, and the thought of being without either parent, and without a mother who is so seminal to one’s very existence, is simply too much for me to dwell on when I am at the other end of the earth from her.

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