Death has a way of waking my senses and clearing my blurred vision. You are probably wondering why my post about Burma would start with death. Well, it is because death was on my mind as I packed our clothes, as we flew across the continents, and as I stepped out of the plane and inhaled the sweet smell of home. Two days before we left for Burma, I got the news that my eldest aunt, my mother's oldest sister, has passed away unexpectedly. I found myself in a dark moment of deja vu. It has been eight years since I have been back home and how much I have missed out on people's lives. I have missed out on their laughter, their tears of joy, their moments of sadness. It has always been my fear that one day I would wake up and they would just be gone. I would no longer be able to give them my bear hugs and to smell their skins and to truly look at their faces and to breathe them in.
Once many moons ago, I flew across the oceans with death on my mind. It was the first time I came home since I had left a few years before. I was a lost child. I breathed but wasn't living. I looked but wasn't seeing. Home sickness had taken over my sixteen years old self and I was filled with so much sadness and resentment. As I inched closer and closer to home, the realization that my dear aunt was dying with cancer kept getting bigger and bigger. The only image I had of her was beautiful. She was one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen and she was proud. I will always remember the first time I walked into her hospital room. There she was...asleep on her hospital bed...so tiny and just bones and skin. She was not my aunt. I stood by the door...not moving but just staring. The clock in the room ticked too loudly. I could hear a faint sound of a lizard somewhere in the room. This was not my aunt. Not my beautiful and proud aunt. She opened her eyes and reached out to me. She smiled like she wasn't dying...the kind of smile that make you dizzy with happiness. She called my name...a faint sound. She kissed my hand and put it against her hollow cheek. I cried then...deep sobbing cries. I cried for a very long time. I cried for her. I cried for me. There we were. One's living and one's dying. I was alive yet I wasn't truly living. I was fading...I was letting go. There she was..dying yet truly living. She was smiling and her eyes were as bright as the sunniest of days. She said she wasn't afraid of dying because she lived. She loved and was loved. She told me to come home. I told her there is nothing in the world I want more than to be home...to feel like I belonged somewhere. Then she did something that would changed the course of my life. She lifted up her fragile hand, covered with tubes, and placed it on my heart. She said, come home. If you are home, here, no matter where you are or how far away you are from your people, you will always be home. Home is the blood that run through you. Home is the history of your people that made you who you are. Home is every piece of memory that you hold onto to create the story of your life. You belonged no matter where you are. My beautiful aunt wasn't afraid of death because she was home..truly home. It mattered not how short her life was or who was surrounding her at her death bed. It mattered that she was so content with how she lived her life and she was one with herself.
So as I made my journey back to Burma with death on my mind, I didn't question whether I belonged anywhere or where home was. I simply thought about how these strong women of mine lived their lives so fully and so contently. I thought about how death has a way of showing you light. I thought about no matter how long or short my aunts were in my life, the love they had for me and I had for them is constant. It is never ending and simply exist without time restraints. I was reminded to truly live by being back in the place where so many pieces of my life were created. I was reminded to come home.