Our Beloved Aunty Kiki


On October 28, 2020, my beloved Aunty Kiki passed away.  Only one short month earlier (September 25th to be exact), she was admitted to SMILO Cancer Center at Yale New Haven Hospital.  She couldn't eat, and we soon learned that the Uterine Cancer she had been battling for 2.5 years had gotten worse--so bad, in fact, that she now had a blockage in her stomach, which was preventing her from being able to digest her food and get the nutrition she needed.

I'll spare the details of her deterioration.  For most of us, watching someone wither away in a month's time is FAST.  However, for my mom and I that watched the "up and down" rollercoaster in October, the time went by painfully slow--especially that last week when she was sent to Connecticut Hospice. During her last week of life, my son went to visit her, followed by my husband, some of her bowling friends, and her sister from Delaware, my Aunty Irene.  

My son told me from day one that he wanted to see her, even if he knew she was dying.  Aunty Kiki, for him, was his "favorite childhood hero."  Besides being there for every birthday celebration and every holiday, Aunty Kiki would make special trips just to see Little Lewie.   She would do "sleepovers" with him at Grammy's house, which included watching The Polar Express, taking him to Friendly's, and making him her famous "Aunty Kiki oatmeal," which was really just an instant packet of Quaker Oats.  You see, having been an educator for 30+ years (a history school teacher and a high school counselor), she had a special ability to relate to kids, and quite honestly, she made everyone, kids and adults, feel like the most important people in this world when they were in her presence.  When I was growing up, she felt like a second mom, and that's exactly how Little Lewie felt about her, too.  (She never had any kids of her own, so we became her kids.)  Here are just a few pictures I found of Little Lewie and her together...  In some ways, you can say that Little Lewie was her little shadow.

In 2017, Aunty Kiki was diagnosed with Cancer; Lewie was nine years old at the time and making his First Communion.  As his godmother, Aunty Kiki wanted to be there more than everything, but she was undergoing her first round of aggressive chemo treatments.  From then on, finding a picture of her was difficult.  The sickness from chemo caused her to miss a number of holidays, and even if she did have the strength to see us, she looked like a Cancer patient.  At the time, I didn't feel right taking pictures of her in that condition, but I now wonder if I should have asked her.  Maybe she still would have wanted to be in those pictures after all--hair or no hair.

Her 70th birthday in 2019 was a blessing.  It was a short stint during her Cancer when she was told she could stop the chemo, and she spent several months doing what she loved best--bowling, visiting Maine, and being with family.  Her hair was back, her energy was back, and her vibrant spark was back.  Her 70th was probably the last day we had a chance to see the "true" Aunty Kiki--the one that was happy and not plagued by this horrible, horrible disease.

On the Thursday before she died, my mom, Little Lewie, and I made the trip to Connecticut Hospice to see her.  (We even brought our puppy, Bruce.)  Due to COVID, they would only allow up to two visitors at a time inside, but she was allowed up to five visitors outside.  Bruce would be allowed to see her outside, too.  Since the nurses there said she was too weak to be pushed outside in a wheelchair, they helped Little Lewie roll her entire bed outside--right near the ocean (where the building is located).  Little Lewie wanted to honor her by bringing Friendly's.  She had told him that when COVID was over, she would treat him to breakfast at his favorite restaurant.  Now that we knew that wouldn't be possible, we decided to stop at Friendly's and bring her a vanilla milkshake.  We ordered our meals to eat along with her, too.  The sad truth is that she could only take one sip of her milkshake, but she smiled and said a few sentences to Little Lewie--it would be the last day that she could say full sentences to anyone.

This is the scenery at Connecticut Hospice and what it's like to roll a bed outside.
I didn't take a picture of Little Lewie's last day with her; the moment,
instead, will be forever engraved in my memory.

It took my Aunty Irene from Delaware another three days to come up and see her.  Since she lived out-of-state, she couldn't visit until she presented a negative COVID test.  Once she got her results, she rushed up to Connecticut to see her.  At this point, it had been days since Aunty Kiki spoke or even opened her eyes, but when she heard her sister's voice, her eyes opened.  We spent that last day, the 27th, talking to her, and we even asked the music therapist to play his guitar.  He played and sang some Beatles, some Elvis, and some John Denver.  We particularly became emotional when he played "Annie's Song," as my Aunty Kiki's name is Annie Gallant.  While she couldn't speak, her feet seemed to move gently to the music.  She could hear us!!

The very next morning, her suffering was over.  She had waited until everyone she loved had a chance to visit, and then (we were told) she went peacefully.  I had the honor of giving her eulogy and even helping write her obituary.  Little Lewie even wrote a few words about his favorite person in the world.  I told him that she loved him too much to leave; if she had her way, she would be back as one of his guardian angels, and I believe that's exactly her new role.  Since her passing, in a strange way, life has been a little lighter and happier.  She would want that for us because she was a big kid at heart.  She loved life.  She is, and forever will be, our inspiration for love, laughter, and joy.  God bless you, Aunty Kiki.  You are our beacon of light.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so sorry for your loss. This is a beautiful post in her honor.


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