|You will be missed,Uncle Earl.|
This morning I sat in front of my computer, weighing my words and thoughts against a very heavy heart. I thought I would be strong today, after hearing last night that my Uncle Earl had succumbed to his long fight with throat cancer. Making that call to all the family members is never easy, neither is receiving the news that a loved one that you were very close to passed on. The emotional roller coaster that it takes you on is pure hell. First the denial, then the anger, the rationalizing, then finally the grief sets in followed by the joy that your loved one is no longer suffering.
I woke up this morning telling myself I'll get by; I'll be okay. As my partner Dennis left to go to work, I told him so while trying to choke back the tears,suppress the pain I was feeling on the inside. It was too much and the emotional dam overflowed from deep within. After numerous attempts to get myself under control, I finally succeeded in reining in my sadness. I've been sad before but this was beyond sad...this was primal sadness from deep within the soul. Even sitting here writing this...it is taking me a great amount of energy just to get myself under control.
Death is never an easy thing to deal with. We go through many rehearsals in our heads;many scenarios to figure out how to deal with the news of a loved one passing away. We take the cool man approach, at times, the "it's-not-going-to break-me" approach where we come off as cold and uncaring to others. Many a funeral and viewing I have gone to that involved a close friend or family member, I have taken this approach so often that my family and friends wonder if I feel anything at all. I never allow myself to be seen publicly grieving, so I do all my grieving privately before everyone arrives. It's out of my system and I can be the rock that I need to be for my family.
On thing I will never understand when it comes to viewings and funerals: Why do we remember their death so much yet we barely recognize the departed while they were living? What was the last thing you did with your loved one before they passed? What memories were shared while they were still among us? How would we like to remember our loved ones other than seeing them in a casket? I was always taught that funerals were suppose to be sad, somber events...no laughing, no funny stories...no humor. If you laughed at a funeral, you were guaranteed to be ostracized from future family events. So we dressed in our finest dark colored outfits, put on our best somber face possible, and paid our respects. I could only imagine what the dearly departed would be thinking right about that time "Oh for heavens sake, stop crying like that! My life wasn't THAT sad!"
Uncle Earl, I remember, was a very avid hunter and fisher...more hunter than fisher, though. Deer season came up and he was all dressed and ready to go out with his wife and sons to capture that big game. after a long day out in the woods, he would crack open a few brews and regale us with tales of his hunting expedition. I found it fascinating to listen to him talk about how he tracked a deer for miles after he shot it full of holes. To see the sparkle in his eyes and the light of the campfire dancing around in them drew you into the story; made you a part of it. He used to tease me a lot for not getting into the hunt, I was considered a pansy if I didn't at least gut one deer in my lifetime. i was more into fishing and gutting and eating fish than I was hunting.
Fishing, we'd take the boat out or fish from the shores, whichever Uncle Earl felt like doing. i recall him telling me about Grandma and Pappy, both avid fishers and hunters. Pappy had a boat that he and Gram would take out on the lake and cast their lines from. Looking over at Earl, he was almost the split image of Pappy, in his flannel jacket, ball cap with the permit attached to it, and his fishing pole. Aunt Becky would help scale the fish and we'd fry it up in the pan over the campfire. I didn't think I'd like eating fresh caught fish, but the way Aunt Becky made it...it made you forget you were eating fish at all. This is what I remember the most about Uncle Earl.
I think one of my biggest regrets was not spending enough time with him during his final days. Aunt Becky and uncle Earl had planned a big family reunion, which I could not attend at the time. I was in the hospital having surgery. I recall Mom calling me to tell me about the reunion and kicking myself in the butt because I really wanted to go. I hadn't seen Uncle Earl in several years since I moved to Pittsburgh with Dennis. All the could of's, should of's, would of's don't make a lick of difference now. He's gone...no longer suffering with his cancer, and in heaven. A lot of words left unspoken, he never got to hear how he had an impact on my life.
I remember a song that came out several years ago that I can relate to now. The song, entitled "In the Living Years", written and sung by a former member of the band Genesis, talks about the death of father and all the things he wished he had told him while he was still alive. The message being that we should never wait until a loved one has left us to finally realize all the words and thoughts;hopes and fears we could have spoken to them. Never hesitate to say how much you love someone, or how much they have made a difference in your life. To not spend that time is to rob yourself of that moment that we take so much for granted. Never pass up an opportunity to share...