Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Anne King, Aunty Anne, RIP

I won’t cry writing this, though it is a sad morning, there is so much good to remember...I just got the news that one of my family’s closest friends died this morning after her fight with Lou Gehrigs disease (ALS) ...Anne King, mother of an outstanding family and wife of one of St. Lucia’s most outstanding surgeons, ‘Aunty Anne’ to me and my sisters, and so many others, let go of this imperfect world of ours today.
Some days it feels like I am losing so many people who have been important in my life...is it like this just because I am getting older? Maybe...but it is hard nonetheless...I don’t want to ever get used to it, though I am grateful for the nudge each loss gives, to cherish each moment and each day we are blessed with.
Anne survived having suffered years of watching her beloved daughter Susan suffer, live (as her sister Jane once so perfectly put it) and eventually pass away from the same disease; in that time as is the way with great sadness and challenge, she grew in ways that gave her much happiness and comfort, I think the whole family did and so did those of us who witnessed from a little further away, but as is also the way in life, with the loss it is still hard for us - imperfect as we are - not to feel a little anger, question why, feel wronged by such loss.
But there is such dignity of life in people who manage to be not just at peace, but serene in their suffering, as was Susan, and when you are privileged to see it, you cannot help but be affected, be blessed, be grateful for your life and for the gift given you by witnessing their deeper understanding. I hope that Anne was able to hold close those gifts Susan gave her as she traveled her own journey in the end. I know without a doubt that this was so hard for her spirit – Anne was the most in-charge, go getting, just do it kind of person – so many things got done, survived and prospered because of her involvement.

I’ve known Anne King from the time we came to St. Lucia – Yacht Club Days when we spent every weekend roaming Reduit Beach with the King-clan kids and others...swimming, sailing, climbing guava trees, sneaking around the old cemetery, exploring the beginnings of the Rodney Bay Marina...sand fights, body surfing, diving off the poles from the old jetty to grab sand off the bottom or better still, the real prize, a big Carib starfish...In those days, she was one of ‘our parents’- that group of grown-ups who kept half and eye on our adventuring, that would appear in a flash if by chance anything did go awry with any of ‘the kids’.
In school she taught us all English – in those days English Language and English Literature...she was a good teacher...strict and at times we didn’t like her for that :) but looking back now, and having been a teacher myself, I can say she was a good teacher – she survived my class’s magee (nonsense) our constant pranks and ‘rudenesses’ without resorting to too much frustration and managed to have us all do well in her subjects too. I remember one day in recent times when we popped over to her home for some gathering or other, I apologized for being such a bad behaved student and she looked at me with complete bafflement and said “What are you talking about? I don’t remember you being trouble!” that, I suspect, is the kind blindness of an 'Aunty' :) I laughed happily and told her with a broad smile, ‘Thank you, but I was, trust me’ and I went along with my heart a little warmed.
The King Family’s house has been our home for Christmas Day from the time we came here – I think we’ve missed just a year or two in all the 40 years...and wow, I realize as I write that, that this year, this month is the 40th Anniversary of the JC’s arrival in St. Lucia! Hmmm. But anyway...Christmas at Lastic Hill...presided over by Anne...how on earth did she get it all organized I wonder...I know all ‘the parents’ contributed, and staff worked overtime, but still...a full lunch for God knows how many adults and many more kids...a day where fun and celebration just existed from the time you arrived to the time you reluctantly left...and Santa Claus arriving with sacks of gifts, (having parked the reindeer in some shady spot on the beach no doubt) in the back (or bonnet) of an open Jeep...those were the days...and the tradition lived on, changed but enduring, with younger generations and new Santa’s, new arrival techniques...even Tim was a Santa one year...an experience I know he’ll never forget :)
Santa Arrives at Lastic Hill, St. Lucia, Christmas Day
Christmas will not be the same again.

As with all people, we’ve all had our days and times of disagreement, disenchantment and such along with the rest...but the thing that in recent years struck me about knowing Anne, has been witnessing a profound deepening of spirit, understanding and conviction - and I count myself blessed to have had a good number of other occasions and situations where I have benefited from such experience - but getting to know Anne again as an adult and through her own struggles, though our encounters have been brief and fairly few, has definitely been one of those.
I wish her family – my ‘adopted’ family in St. Lucia – comfort and the warmth of their good memories, gratitude to last their lifetimes for the time she shared with them.