HAVE YOU EVER LOST a loved one? I’m sorry because it sucks. It hurts. And I know it’s common knowledge, but I hate thinking about death: that one day we all eventually die. It’s an inescapable truth that comes to pass for everyone. No matter who we are, what we’ve done, or what we hope to achieve… it ends. And we’re gone. Damn, dude.
ONE YEAR AGO, TODAY, we lost Sean to a drunk driving accident. As they say, time heals all wounds. It doesn’t hurt as badly as it did a year ago. I don’t find myself waking up and crying, remembering, with a painful ache in my stomach as I wish that I could somehow rewind time. Not anymore. But I still miss him. That’ll never go away.
I love you, dude. I still can’t believe it happened, like that. I can’t believe that it was a year ago. Miss you.
SEAN ISN’T THE ONLY LOVED ONE that my family has lost. In the course of about a year and a half, we’ve lost more family in tragic ways. At the beginning of 2018, we lost several in succession. I was left wondering, seriously, what in the actual f***? But I guess it was just that time. You get to an age where you start to lose the people you love. You watch friends, family, parents, aunts, uncles, children, and grandparents disappear. I don’t think it ever gets easier. It never becomes normal, even though we know it happens. And there’s nothing we can do to prepare for the loss. All we can do is deal with it in the moment and allow time to ease the ache and dull the pain. In some form or another.
BEFORE WE LOST SEAN in 2017, we lost my Uncle Don. In early February 2017, I received a call from my brother, and he asked me if I’d heard. The night before, our Uncle had taken his own life. It was a horrible tragedy. I couldn’t believe it.
UNCLE DON WAS ONE OF THE main Uncles that I had in my life. The few that were always there. He was at every family party while I was growing up. I spend a lot of time at his house when I was younger. His family lived right across the street from mine, from when I was in 4th grade, up until I was in 8th. I had dinner with my Uncle, my Auntie, and my younger cousins on many occasions. I specifically remember the shake and bake dinners and him always asking if I wanted “pop”. He was the only person I know that called soda “pop”. He also introduced me to potstickers, and I love them to this day.
I spent a lot of time with him. With their family. They were always inviting me over. He was a huge part of my life. He was a main part of my life. Uncle Don was always there, and it’s still hard to imagine that he is really gone.
MY UNCLE HAD BEEN DEALING with a lot of issues. At the time, I hadn’t seen him in years. Back in 2012, he was trying to start his own business. He brought me and my wife into it, to work for him. I was hesitant since working with family can be hit or miss. Anyways, one night there was an issue. We got into a dispute and it was pretty heated. By the end, my wife was crying and I was so angry with him. He eventually apologized and the situation was “resolved” but we never really forgave him.
AFTER THAT, MY WIFE AND I stopped talking to him. We always felt an unease around him. We distanced ourselves and then the years went by. And then we learned he took his own life. I was filled with so much regret. Then the what-ifs began to play in my mind. What if I had talked to him? What if I had made amends? What if I had called, or something, throughout the years? Would I have been able to stop it? I don’t know… and it haunts me to this day.
THERE WAS NO CHANCE TO say goodbye. To say one last word. Like Sean, he was taken in an instant. In that instant, he was gone forever, and life would be eternally different. I would never be able to tell him I forgave him. Never be able to sit, and laugh, and have dinner together. No more parties. No more family get-togethers. Just the memories and the loss.
Uncle Don’s Funeral
I REMEMBER STANDING in the memorial service. Sitting in the back pews of the Catholic church, with my wife and our newborn daughter. It was an emotional event. I had lost several family members before this, but that was years ago. My Uncle Don was one of the first family members we lost that I had a real-life connection with. I saw him all the time. He was there while I was growing up. And it hurt.
I had to walk out. I stood in the foyer while the service went on. There was a billboard with pictures from his life. Pictures from a younger time, when my cousins (who are all adults now) were just babies. Infants. It still makes me cry thinking about it.
I REMEMBER DRIVING to the cemetery. Lowering his ashes into the grave, standing side by side with my wife, my children, my auntie, my cousins, parents, and relatives. Silently. It was a cold, overcast day. And as I watched the ashes being lowered into the grave, I started crying. Under my breath, I said, “I’m sorry Uncle Don. For everything. I forgive you. I’m sorry.” And at that moment, the clouds parted. The sun shone for a brief moment, and I felt a comforting warmth resting on the back of my neck.
I TOLD MY WIFE ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE afterward, and she said that she had done the same thing. Felt the same thing. We like to think it was my Uncle. Whether that makes sense or not, who knows. But with death, who really knows anything?
Lost Loved Ones in 2018
AFTER SEAN AND UNCLE DONE, I thought that it would be another few years before I heard news of the next death. That there would be time to process and grieve losing two very important members of our family. But time doesn’t wait. At the beginning of 2018, we lost more loved ones.
AUNTIE LIZ was a huge part of my life. We lost her in 2011, but I wanted to remember her today, just the same. I remember seeing her in her final days, fighting cancer. It was heartbreaking to see her so fragile. I hoped and prayed that she would win against cancer… that by some miracle she’d pull through. I was so convinced that this wouldn’t happen that when it did, it broke me. She was a huge part of my childhood, and she is greatly missed.
UNCLE TIM was sick and he lost his battle with the sickness in early 2018. While I was in college, years ago, we lost my Auntie May (his wife) to cancer. I wasn’t as close to them as I would have liked, by they will still always hold a place in my heart. I miss both.
AUNTIE CHELLO lost her life to a deadly combination of pills, maybe a few weeks after hearing about my Uncle Tim’s passing. I wasn’t as close to her, but she was there while I was growing up. She had her issues but I still loved her. When my wife and I got married in 2012, she was there. She wished us well. That was the last time I ever saw or spoke to her.
UNCLE MARION had an accident at work, which I learned about not too long after learning of my Auntie and Uncle losing their lives. He was on a ladder, slipped, and went into a coma. After some time, he was taken off life support. I wasn’t that close to him, either, but I will always remember his smile.
MY COUSIN RICHARD was a few years older than me. I have fond memories of hanging out with him when I was a kid, but I hadn’t seen or heard from him in years. I learned a few months ago, from my mom, that he lost his life in a freak diving accident. Not sure what that means, but I’m sorry to lose him too.
BRIAN WAS A COWORKER that worked with my wife. He was in his early 20s. I didn’t know him personally, just that he worked with my wife and that he had a daughter. He had put his two weeks’ notice into work. A few weeks later, he left a Facebook post saying goodbye to everyone he loved. He took his own life, soon afterward. Of course, Brian isn’t a loved one, but I’m remembering him because his death left an impact on us. It was sudden and unexpected. My wife was devastated. And I didn’t know him, but I knew enough about him for his passing to be felt.
DEATH COMES FOR US ALL, eventually. It can come at any moment, and we can’t stop when or how it happens. It’s a sobering thought. Life has a time limit. We don’t live forever. So love the ones who love you, and don’t waste your time on the ones that don’t. Get rid of toxic people, but forgive the ones that deserve to be forgiven. Live life your way, not anyone else’s. Life is too short to waste on trying to live an unfulfilled life based on someone else’s expectation of what you “should do”.
IF YOU HAD ONE WISH, what would you wish to be? What would you wish to do? Be that. Do that. Live for that. F*** everything and everyone else.
BE HAPPY ON YOUR TERMS. Live, be safe, and enjoy the time that you have.
BE AWESOME. Thank you so much for reading.