My aunt Teresa died early on Tuesday morning, from complications of ALS, just a month after her 47th birthday.
She started to have health problems about two years ago. It was slow to diagnose, but eventually her doctors determined that she had both fronto-temporal dementia (FTD) and ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease).
Two weeks ago, she developed aspiration pneumonia. With treatment, she improved enough to leave the ICU for her last few days, but her lung function was badly damaged. We made the difficult decision to not keep her on a respirator (Teresa was strongly against the tracheostomy it would have required). There were a lot of hard decisions involved in her care.
The last couple of days, I’ve been cataloging everything I know about her. She’s my mother’s only sister. Her favorite color was yellow. She loved to sing. When I was in grade school, she and Grandma Sandi used to make tapes, where they told stories and sang to us, and mail them off as audio letters. She liked board games and party games and scavenger hunts. She read trashy romance novels, and bought things because there were on sale and someone might like them (which meant an endless supply of cheap plastic toys when I was little. As an adult that switched to dishware).
She worked at Safeway in White Salmon, and was really proud when she saved up enough to buy her own little house near Mt. Adams. She liked flavored “specialty” coffees before there were espresso carts with flavored syrups available everywhere. She was a big fan of Columbia Valley wines, visiting many producers before any of them reached wider attention. She smoked for most of her life, and only stopped after she got sick. She was often anxious, and coped with it in various ways. The last several years that included an intense devotion to scriptural study.
She regretted that there were many things that would never happen in her life, that she ran out of time so soon.
I hate that we will never have another Easter egg hunt together, and that everything I found awkward in our relationship will just sit there, forever unresolved.
She deserved to have more time.