I was the new guy. I’d been invited for New Year’s Eve in Maricourt and not only would this be our first official holidays together, I’d be meeting the entire family: aunts, uncles, cousins and… The Americans. Cynthia had told me about her fabled Tante Pierrette—her mom’s older sister—how she had fallen in love with some handsome American guy and left everything behind to get married—without even speaking a word of English at the time. How she had held everything together after Arthur had been taken at a much too young age, raising her three boys, taking over the travel agency and seeing it prosper. How she could control everything and everyone effortlessly, just by being who she was. A taskmaster all obeyed without question.
I pictured a hurricane; I pictured a red-haired Valkyrie riding north to judge and slay me and throw me back into the pit… I was terrified.
But we hit it off.
Sometimes you meet people you’ve known your entire life; there’s no awkwardness, no trial period to go through. You just pick up where you left off, as impossible as it may be. Like souls intersecting. Everything I had heard was true, of course: she was a whirlwind. But she was also funny and fearless and generous and completely mad in the best way imaginable. The let’s-drive-two-hours-for-ice-cream kind of mad. I never once felt out of place in her home, never once felt uncomfortable in her presence. Never felt anything but love, friendship and support for myself, for Cynthia and our kids. She was even one of the few to encourage me into pursuing photography as a career and would send me clippings of magazine articles she thought might interest me. Every single time, we’d simply pick up where we left off, as though mere days had gone by.
Yesterday she passed away.
She fought those odds and beat the crap out of them like the force of nature that she was, bouncing back time and time and time again, making liars out of every doctor she met. A Valkyrie to the very end. But life, inevitably, is a deconstruction.
The picture above—with Cynthia and the kids— is a favourite of mine. It was shot almost three years ago and is one of my very first KAGE essays, something entitled We Hold On. She was already sick at the time and we all feared the end would come way too soon. It did… But boy did she hold on.
I’m not a religious man as most of you know but today I’ll sign off the way she always would:
Love and Prayers