I’ve always been big on numbers and dates; and a look at the calendar with a special date often leaves me recalling an incident, a birthday, or some other equally significant event.
Today, it is 17th of December, and also Aunty Catherine’s birthday, the first one since she left us earlier this August. I would have loved to take her out on a nice lavish birthday dinner to celebrate the occasion, something we always do on birthdays in our family. Unfortunately, that’s not possible. Neither is it possible to text her on our WhatsApp family group chat, nor Facebook.
Aunty Catherine is no longer with us, and four months since her passing, I am still struggling to accept that she is really gone; from the earth at least.
It’s a fact that’s immensely hard to swallow, like the tears that are impossible to choke back when I’m reminded that she didn’t get to turn 64, because like so many other unfortunate cancer fighters, her physical body simply was too weak to win the battle.
A person’s life and perspective on things are often marked by the first passing of somebody close to him or her, and Aunty Catherine’s death has marked the way I think profoundly.
Until she passed on, I never had to experience the permanent and physical loss of someone important to me; today, I’m more and more aware of how fragile life is and how important it is to tell those we care about that we love them.
I’m blinking back tears as I write this down – she was a woman beautiful both inside and out, and her life shone with a passion and love and generosity that few can claim to have.
Aunty Catherine lived too short a life for a woman with so much overflowing abundance; but every single day that she lived was a day of celebration. She lived her life on earth with a fiery love of God, spent her days with purpose and passion and she fought the good fight. That’s what I and everyone else who had the privilege of knowing her will always remember.
It is a difficult day and a very particular moment for myself and so many of us who love her, but Aunty Catherine’s life should be remembered and celebrated, bright and full of vibrance.
My dearest Aunty Catherine,
How have you been? It’s been a while since you left; four months to date to be exact. I hope you are well, as you look down on us from Heaven. Time is supposed to heal all wounds and grief should eventually ease, I suppose, but it still feels wrong that you’re no longer here. I wish I had been able to bid you farewell face-to-face, but with so much physical distance between us then, FaceTime was the next best alternative. I’m so sorry I didn’t return in time to hug you one last time.
It’s so hard to believe that the last time I saw you at home in March was the last time I ever saw you personally. When I hugged your tiny cancer-struck frame in our kitchen that Tuesday evening, I somehow knew in my bones it might well be the last. I so much wish my hunch wasn’t accurate, and that I am still able to see you one more time. I so desperately wish you were still here with us, to be able to go shopping in Orchard Road and then have high tea together with Aunty Adeline in some beautiful cafe, to be able to chat about life and the future, to be able to cook and bake for you, to just be around.
I know that you’ve gone home to be with God, and that you’re in a much better position now than during your last few days on earth, when you had to suffer through pain so intense even morphine couldn’t ease. But while you aren’t physically around anymore, you are always in my heart. The many chats we’ve had about life, the sound of your voice, your bright, beautiful smile, your twinkling eyes and generous spirit – these things will always be with me, and I am so deeply proud to be your niece.
There is so much more to say, but the depth of my emotion is too profound to be put into mere words. I just hope you know I will always remember you. I love you and miss you so very much.
I’m sharing a simple cake today – a gluten-free lemon cornmeal cake that shines with the lightness of citrus lemon, is textured with grainy cornmeal and has a wonderful, moist crumb.
It’s easy to make, comes together quickly and holds up well.
I think Aunty Catherine would have loved it. I’m thinking so will you.
- 2 cups of yellow cornmeal
- 1 cup of gluten-free all purpose flour
- ¾ cup of sugar
- 2 teaspoons of baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- ½ cup of melted butter
- 2 eggs
- 1½ cups of milk
- Zest and juice of two lemons (about 4 tablespoons of lemon juice)
- Preheat oven to 375 deg. Fahrenheit (190 deg. Celsius)
- Grease and line an 8-inch round cake pan with baking paper
- In a large bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt
- In another bowl, beat eggs, then add melted butter, milk, lemon zest and lemon juice, then stir until combined
- Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients, mine well until a homogeneous batter is achieved. (If batter is too dry, add 1 or 2 tablespoons more of milk.
- Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake for 20 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Allow lemon cornmeal cake to cool completely before removing from pan and slicing.