He was a son, a brother, a cousin, a friend, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and my Uncle. He was the third of my maternal grandparents' five children, although they never spoke of the first child, Agnes, the one who was born, and then died, on January 1, 1932. My Uncle was their only, their "favorite" son. They moved into that sturdy brick house in Queens in 1936, the same year he was born. He moved back into that house in 1989 when he was fifty-three, after his mother had to go into the nursing home. My Uncle was living in that house until last night, Sunday night, the end of the 4th of July weekend. As he was driving home the short distance from his life-long best friend's home at around 8:30 pm, my Uncle's car was broad-sided by a car driven by a teenager. My Uncle was unconscious when the FDNY pried what was left of the car and rescued him from wreck. He was taken to the ER of a nearby hospital. His best friend Mac heard about the accident from my eldest Aunt, who resides 67 miles north of Queens. She had received the call from my Uncle's youngest son, whose home is 207 miles away. Mac was at the hospital by 10:30 pm. My Uncle was alive, but he was having trouble breathing, so they moved him to the ICU, sedated him, and put him on a ventilator. The son, the Aunt, and Mac were with him when he died at 6:30 am.
It's so strange that when someone you loved dies, you're never far enough away to be spared the pain of his loss. And, even if you are so close to them that you may be holding his hand while his body ceases to function, you are never close enough to pull him back from death.
Ever since my own mother, my Uncle's younger sister, phoned and told tell me that he is dead, my mind has been going over my memories of him again and again. They play randomly, not chronologically. He always was a part of my life as a child. He made sure he attended every one of my music recitals, my theater productions, and both my high school and college graduations. We loved one another, and that was a fact. When you are a child, and you are loved, you believe that love is unalterable. But love can be impermanent when exposed to Life and Loss. Our family suffered many losses, for which family does not? Family members, in their grief and the attendant rage to that grief, may lash out, may say words that cannot be rescinded, may act in a ways which cause irreparable harm. They lose control because, ultimately, in the face of death, we have no control. We are lost, and so bewildered by death that we are at a loss.
Losses can be borne by the family tree, but this requires that the tree is pruned properly. That is essential to the structure of the tree. Fortunately, trees possess a natural defense to pruning cuts and other wounds. Then there are the roots to consider. What if rot sets in? Can the tree survive severed roots? Yes, the tree can survive if the tree if the tree's history was strong, and the previous growing conditions were healthy and sound.
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"Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord; and may perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen."
Ar dheis lámh Dé go raibh a Anam dílis