My uncle died. Yesterday. He died. Far away from here.
My mom was there, with her sister and my cousins and their families.
This wasn’t completely unexpected. He had cancer and he fought, but it’s sitting heavily with me and I wish I could be there too.
My uncle was a good man, he provided a good life for his family and I think he loved me in whatever way an uncle loves a niece. I loved him too, but now he is gone. Just like that. Just like everyone.
Just like my dad.
I hadn’t seen my uncle in person since July of 2005. We were all in Lexington to scatter my dad’s ashes at the Kentucky Horse Park.
My dad’s name is on a plaque there, under a maple tree. Someday, I will get there to see it again. Mom brought me a leaf the last time she went.
I keep it with the pieces of the leaf I took when I was there in 2004.
That first one was the victim of the little boy’s curiosity. My heart ached a bit when he broke it apart, but I had to let that go.
He was just a boy.
It was just a leaf.
And I still had the pieces.
Even so, I was relieved when Mom brought me a new one. I keep it in the same box as the first, but now the box is stowed away from tiny dancing fingers.
I don’t mean to make a ritual of it, but I tend to take out the leaf whenever someone dies. Seeing it makes me feel better for a moment.
My uncle was funny. I remember his sense of humor. I remember being amused around him all the time. That’s a good thing. That makes me feel better too.
I know what will happen in the next several days. My mom will extend her trip, there will be a service of sorts and everyone will say goodbye. And then, the arduous task of going forward, one man fewer.
I remember when I left Kentucky, I felt so conflicted about leaving my father behind me. The most painful part of the trip was the day after the service, when I went again to the Horse Park to say a last farewell.
When I turned my back on dad’s tree, my limbs got heavy and the air felt like drying mud in front of me. It was hard to wade through it and get to the car. I kind of had to swim. Swim or sink.
Now my uncle is gone and the air feels a little bit muddy again.
I am sad for my aunt.
I am sad for my cousins.
And the kids.
My uncle has sweet grandchildren.
I am so sorry for their loss.
Goodbye, Uncle Bill.
I will never forget you.