I’ve been meaning to write a post for a while now. Something light-hearted and upbeat, potentially guest starring a plate of bacon. Unfortunately, I haven’t been writing much at all the past couple of weeks. Staring at a blank Google Doc with a blank mind is more accurate.
Every once in a while, a life event affects me so profoundly that I almost don’t want to write about it. Perhaps for fear that I’m not doing its impact justice. I guess that’s why I’ve spent the past week and a half staring at a screen.
Last Wednesday, I was at work. I was in the middle of making some slides about the importance of mobile in our company’s future, and my phone went off. After finishing a slide, I checked the text.
My entire body gasped. My heart hit the floor. I froze for a moment, then started collecting my things. The tears came quickly.
I rushed out of the office and immediately called my dad. This was not happening. It could not be happening. My uncle… my Uncle Danny. He is healthy. He works out, he eats well. He just introduced me to his new girlfriend.
It was just a text message. How can a text message change your life?
But it did. The following morning, I booked a flight to Dallas. My uncle didn’t have a wife or kids, so it was up to my sister, my dad and I to get everything in order.
We went to his house first. They said it was a brain aneurysm. He died in his sleep. The body was gone, but the blood wasn’t.
We sorted through what we could. I hacked into his Facebook and email accounts, and started spreading the news. We arranged for the cremation, picked out the urn, coordinated with the church, gathered photos, talked to his friends, looked for a will, made slide shows, arranged for his mother (who suffers from severe dementia) to travel for the services, tried to figure out how to tie up the ends of the business he runs, wrote eulogies, planned the reception, ordered the food, wrote the obituary, put it in the paper.
I never thought my first piece published in a newspaper would be that one.
In the midst of it all, the grief was overwhelming. We kept so busy that it just hadn’t sunk in that we lost him. It isn’t fair. His parents had three sons, and had now lived to see two of them die. My dad is all they have left. I don’t understand.
By Sunday, most of the service was ready. My sister and I stayed with our mom in the feeble hope of getting our minds off of everything. At 7:15 a.m., I decided I was too sad to work out and sat down for a cup of coffee. That’s when my mom’s phone rang.
She started to cry almost immediately, and I knew that my grandmother had just passed away. I woke my sister up. We held my mom as she cried. We exchanged a look of utter disbelief. We’ve been through so much in the past few years that only the two of us can truly understand how the other is feeling. It just never seems to end.
I felt sad for my grandma, but a different kind of sad. She was ready to go. She wanted to go. She kept asking whether this was over yet, and when she could go see grandpa. But that didn’t stop the pain in my mom’s eyes as she laid in bed crying.
With everything that’s happened, I would definitely consider this the second-ranking “rock bottom” I’ve experienced. I’m really going to need a therapist. And wine. And a lot more bacon than I thought.
Tuesday, I returned to New York. It’s nice to be one of millions again. It’s amazing how the noises of the city is sometimes the most comforting silence. A reminder that you’re never really alone.
I slept for nearly ten hours last night, and today, I feel a little better. I miss my uncle, but I’m coming to peace things. Before I left, I took something from his house. Normally, he doesn’t like clutter. Everything is spotless, and well decorated – with one exception. On his sleek black refrigerator, he kept a single magnet – “It’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years!”
He lived with so much joy. He just wanted to have a good time and be happy. I think that’s what we all want, but we don’t all live it like he did.
Maybe it’s time we started.