A few months ago my mother’s oldest brother died at age 73 of a staph infection. He spent the last 2-3 years of his life in a nursing home having nearly given up on the prospect of ever walking again and for the longest time had given up on himself. Uncle Dick never measured up academically to his other two brothers, or to his sister (my mother). He never made as much money or was able to express himself as eloquently. My mother wrote my sister and I an email informing us of his death under the heading “a few thoughts”. He was different, she said, but not as different where it mattered. He enjoyed a good joke, worked hard when he was physically able, and loved his family. During these past few years one of his children never made an attempt to contact him, despite living only a few miles away. I can only hope that his being gone inspires her to form a better relationship with her own kids; maybe she’ll become less selfish.
More recently my co-op student’s dad died at age 51 of cancer. Three weeks prior he was diagnosed with cancer. He was proud of his dad. Yet, after his death, he seemingly showed no emotion. Even at age 18, sacrificed expressing his grief so that he could help his mother through hers.
Several weeks ago my parents were due to come up for a week-long visit. A few days before the trip my father had chest pains after swimming. I naturally hit panic mode; I didn’t want to see him go through what he did ten years ago during and after his bypass surgery. I didn’t want to be 600 miles away knowing mom would be carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. But lets be honest here; I was being selfish again. I want my mom and dad to live forever. That way I’d always have someone to rely on; someone to help me make difficult decisions that I’ve always been afraid to make. Maybe this would in my repertoire if someone relied on me. All I have in that regard are two golden retrievers and it’s difficult to unload on them and get any feedback other than “can we please go for a swim, daddy?”
Sometimes silence in the face of death only causes pain; sometimes it heals. Some of us don’t know what to say.