"I'm gonna miss them, Auntie Dee," she said nostalgically. "They always made me laugh." I smiled and listened intently as she started to name who she was going to miss and what she would miss about them. I started to observe and reflect on how this young girl, who when I first met her, eyed me suspiciously as if looking into the depths of my soul to question my authenticity. I reminisced on the night she auditioned for the fashion show and the time I spent in helping her master her walk. I smiled when thinking of the collage of hearts and butterflies she drew for me on a piece of pink construction paper, as a way of saying thank you without ever uttering one word. I started to massage the wave of emotion that was forming around my heart; I have a penchant for being sentimental when I know my time with loved ones is winding down.
As I slowly refrained from my mind's bank of memories, IyKeisha looked at me and said, "And you...you made me more confident in myself, Auntie Dee."
Everything around me became blurry as the tears made their trek down my cheek bones, dropping into my hands. The sounds of laughter and conversations were drowned out by the intense beating of my heart. At that moment, everything stood still.
"Are you crying, Auntie Dee?" Cousin IyKeisha asked.
A few seconds passed before I was able to push aside the lump of emotion that had settled in my throat. I looked at her the way my mom looks at me whenever I say something to her that has touched her heart in some way. I was deeply moved beyond words and realized that the moment did not need any verbal correspondence to validate it. So I remained silent and let my tears and spirit speak. Cousin IyKeisha, as if sensing the space I was in, rested her head on my shoulder and cried with me. Experiences like these always happen at camp, so thankfully no one interrupted with questions. I came out of my solitude and was finally able to get a few words in through all of the tears.
"I don't think you will ever know how much what you said meant to me." And with that, I squeezed her hand and let the last few tears journey down my face; I then knew that this experience, this interaction, this intimacy, this love, this intense transformation, this space of safety is what life is all about. In that moment, it became even more real to me that the reason why we are here is to make life better for someone else. I knew that moments like these are the reason why I breathe.