My Tía Adelaide at the End of Life

“The end of life has its own nature, also worth our attention. I don’t say this without reckoning in the sorrow, the worry, the many diminishments. But surely it is then that a person’s character shines or glooms.”  Mary Oliver in “Our World.”

My tía Adelaide, 102, was holding herself with such poise that I almost didn’t notice the clear, oxygen tubes draped around her ears and into her nostrils. Her voice was faint, but she looked resplendent in a turquoise Mumu with coral flowers that reminded me of the watercolors she painted not so long ago.

“I’m on my seventh Jeffrey Archer book,” she had said on that rainy day. We sat at her balcony overlooking a sea of buildings in Panama City, where I was born. The attendant had placed my tía’s wheelchair next to the caged periquitos; and, as we talked, tía Adelaide’s freckled fingers would reach into the wire cage for one seed and then another that she placed expertly into the birds’ tiny beaks. I noticed a large, mean-looking bruise on her calf from a recent fall.

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