We will call her Hélène!
You so often told me that, after your birth, your father had pronounced these words with pride while entering the room. You loved your given name so much, and rightly so. Synonymous with gentleness and kindness, it suited you so well. The last child of a family of seven children, your parents must have welcomed your birth with joy and apprehension as both your brothers Maurice and Armand had died a few months before your were born.
You were undoubtedly loved and cherished and lived a happy childhood. You adored your parents. You lost your father when you were only 17 years’ old. But before your wedding, you enjoyed a privileged relationship with your mother.
Not even two weeks ago, we were looking through your photo albums together. We did it so often! How proud were you of all the trips you made when you were younger. When I told you that I would go visit Chicago at the end of August, you told me once again all about the World’s Fair of 1934 to which you had traveled by car with your family. You were only seven years’ old at the time, but you still remembered it so well.
You affectionately called me your traveling companion. We had so much fun together! Not to mention our shopping sprees! How can I ever forget our laughing fits in the fitting rooms of the US Outlets? During nearly 10 years or so, we went to the Sparhawk in Ogunquit, Maine. I remember seeing you sitting on the balcony, facing the sea, either reading a good detective novel or doing your famous crossword puzzles. Each year, thinking that it would be the last time, you were shedding a small tear. I made you laugh when I said “Come on, stop crying, I have already made our reservations for next year!”
In 2010, I came up with the idea of celebrating my 50th birthday in New York City. We had not been there in 16 years. You had always been afraid to travel by plane, you had not taken a flight since 20 years. When I told you about it, you told me you wanted to go there by train. I told you it would take too long. And by plane, we just take off and land, it would not even last an hour. Alzheimer’s disease has its benefits, the day of the flight, you had forgotten all your fears. When the plane started moving along the runway, you laughed as if you were in an amusement park ride, while, as usual, I was terrified when the plane took off. YOU held my hand.
We had made no plan for this four-day stay in New York City. In fact, our only goal was to go to Bloomingdale’s, which is the first thing we did upon our arrival. After that, we were so exhausted that we just fell asleep. “Mom, wake up, you must eat, it’s already 8:00 p.m.! You answered: Where are we? You will not believe me! Come see! Looking through the window, there was this breathtaking view of Avenue of the Americas with its countless yellow cabs and us, shedding tears of joy, as we were so happy to be there.
Of all the gifts you made to your traveling companion, that week-end was the most beautiful of all. The only thing that you refused to do was taking a horse-drawn carriage ride in Central Park. You were so afraid to be cold. You were always so cold, mom. When we got back, you regretted it and told me that next time, we would take that ride. Never mind, mom, I just read recently that carriage rides in Central Park were controversial. This was the perfect trip.
You undertook your last trip two days ago, mom. Godspeed! I already know that you no longer feel pain, that you no longer feel cold. Go meet up with René again. He is waiting for you with his lopsided smile. He was never very romantic, but I know that just to please you, he will sing you that Aznavour song you loved so much:
“The sky is weaving a wool blanket
Summer is preparing for its Winter retreat
But be not afraid of the cold, Hélène
I will keep you warm, I will keep you warm
Let’s go dream on the shore of the Seine
If there is still some green space out there
And if it’s quity chilly out of the sun, Hélène
I will keep you warm, I will keep you warm.”
This tribute was written 3 days ago. My dearest friend Danielle Assaad has kindly accepted to translate it to English for me. I wanted it to be perfect. Danielle, thank you so much. This text exactly says what I have written in French. You are the best!