My aunt Ella died back in 1998, I think it was. She was the last member of my family in the town where they had lived for nearly three hundred years. Though in fact neither I nor my parents were born there and we never lived there ourselves, we visited often during my childhood. My dad kept a boat there at one point, and many weekends were spent there - in town getting food and provisions for the boat, on the docks, playing with other children or fishing, and out on the water.
I spent vacations with various aunts and uncles, and eventually I knew every street as though I'd been there all my life. My grandmother moved back in her last years, and I spent a lot of time with her, even lived with her for six months when I was in my 20's. It is a beautiful New England river town, and I felt so connected between my immediate family and my ancestors (some in every cemetery, as it were,) and my own experience. But in fact, all the younger generations moved away. Then a decade later Grandma died, followed one after the other by the aunts and uncles. My Aunt Ella was one of the dearest to me, and the last. When she died a light went out. The whole town which had been a living place in my mind, went dark, became flat and two dimensional - map-like, unmoving.
I had noticed this reaction before but never so clearly. I wonder if this is peculiar to me or is it an aspect of loss for everyone? Each person I know and care for is like a lamp, lighting up the world around them.