Ma chère Mamouchka,
This morning, you leave our world to depart for another, the one where your father and mother and brother and sister await, surely a grandiose reunion, the likes of which to match your daydreams.
My dear Mamouchka, when we bid adieu in January, just as we did in July, you tell me it may be the last we see each other, a farewell you never utter before, so I know your time here draws to a close and that you prepare yourself for the homecoming of death. It is bittersweet, but you tire of the struggle of this mundane existence with little more to look forward to than your garden, your Shahin, the piece of dark chocolate; I tell you to come say good bye to me in my dreams.
So, when you visit me the night we travel between Pucon and Viña del Mar, I know the end is near. I know, too, you are conflicted with your departure, uncertain about the reckoning of things here and there, of if you’re really ready to leave, for when I see you in my dream, I feel you afraid and choked with the final farewells you must do within your spirit.
At your bedside, my mother and aunt Nathalie watch vigil, they there for their mother and to see their childhood come to a close.
Perhaps I give it too much credence, but I like to believe that as your first grandchild, we share in a special communion, one we revisit time and time again as we spend parts of our summers at the Guiettière in Saint Tropez, your orange-pink palace of Mediterranean sun, a delight of discovery held in your garden each subsequent year, one made noisy and chaotic with the likes of Fellow and Gitan and Eliot and Genghis.
I remember the time when it was just the three of us–you, me and Yannick, the parents house-hunting in the US, I think–and we camp in your bed, happy sardines stacked head to toe. I remember, too, you pinching Yannick’s nose shut to pry open his jaws, determined to stick whatever dinner concoction he refuses to eat down his gullet so help you god, only to be defeated by your vomit-on-command grandson.
Or, when we were there for Thibault’s baptism, or, maybe Virginie’s, and Yannick takes guzzles the last drop from everyone’s champagne chutes behind their backs, addicted to the bubbly sweet at an early age, resulting in a tipsy Bilou.
Or, the sailing lessons in the bay, all of us lined up in little sailboats like ducklings, too cute for words.
Or, being called ma poulette.
Though your sharp tongue is infamous, one that cuts deep and lasting when you desire, lacerations to last a lifetime, there is much I admire about you, Mamouchka, much that I miss and keep in my heart. I like to believe that where you were misdirected in your communications, you were solid in your convictions, a true Leo Lion, noble in your presence of self, old wisdom curled within your veins, the likes of which were best expressed with your fingers deep in the soil, breathing the sweetest life into plants of all shapes and sizes.
In your garden, you stoke the fire of eternity, and I know this to be your love, unconditional, for where you were maladroit with us in your words and gestures, the manifestation of the pride, loyalty, ferocity for which you hold for your family was always apparent outdoors.
Oh, Mamouchka, how lucky I am to have known you for thirty-two years, to have had the chance of knowing you in adulthood, of hearing your stories of your childhood, love unrequited, your dreams for yourself, the pain of a failed relationship. We have moments of commiserating, when you share your lived experiences to try to help me understand mine, moments when your face mirrors the appreciation I feel.
I wake up this morning knowing you are gone before I receive my cousin’s note, and I am sad.
I miss you and your firey spirit, for if there is one thing you show me from dawn ’til dusk, it’s the example of a strong, independent woman, one capable of forging her own life decades before it was the vogue, of turning adversity into opportunity, of holding your head high.