Fernanda, widowed by Aureliano Segundo, her children in a convent, a seminary, a school, alone now with Aureliano, the illegitimate son of her elder daughter, retreats back within herself when she finds no one to to immediately work for, no one to immediately blame. She dons the robe and crown she wore as the Festival Queen when she first visited Macondo.
"Anyone who could have seen her in front of the mirror, in ecstacy over her own regal gestures, would have had reason to think that she was mad. But she was not. She had simply turned the royal regalia into a device for her memory. The first time that she put it on she could not help a knot from forming in her heart and her eyes filling with tears because at the moment she smelled once more the odor of shoe polish on the boots of the officer who came to get her at her house to make her a queen, and her soul brightened with the nostalgia of her lost dreams. she felt so old, so worn out, so far away from the best moments of her life that she even yearned for those that she remembered as the worst, and only then did she discover how much she missed the whiff of oregano on the porch and the smell of the roses at dusk, and even the bestial nature of the parvenus. Her heart of compressed ash, which had resisted the most telling blows of daily reality without srain, fell apart with the first waves of nostalgia. The need to feel sad was becoming a vice as the years eroded her. She became human in her solitude." (p. 392)
How unfortunately true of so many of us. We see too late that the heartbreak in dealing with honesty and the honest flawed humanness of others is better than living within a cell of self-deception, using words to fend off those who approach, burying our disappointment in avoidance, work, dedication to interests that comfort us more than the touch of a hand on a shoulder.
And then, to discover it and allow it to soften our soul, even if still in a self-centered sense of what we have lost to our stubborn shells of protection, the poignant horrible loss must be born in that same sterile, inpenetrable shell all alone.