One week ago, I grieved after my uncle’s funeral.
Two weeks ago, my uncle died.
Three weeks ago, I held his hand and whispered my love and goodbyes to him.
It happens so quickly and in such a blur that sometimes it doesn’t even feel like reality. It’s more like an alternate reality. It’s as if you are suspended but time is still passing, and you don’t notice the disconnect until the alternate stops and you’re thrust back into your normal life and routine. It is no easy thing, to lose someone you love.
And that is as it should be, I suppose. The enormity of grief is a testament to relationship. Or perhaps more accurately, grief is a testament to love, for it is very well true that one may grieve for a person with whom she did not have a close relationship. I think, in particularly, of children who have estranged parents: There may be an unquenchable grief at losing a parent in such a case, simply because–though they loved one another–the relationship was broken and left unmended. Such a grief is likely greater than I can imagine. I do not envy it, and so I take this moment to remind myself and my friends: Do not leave wounds unmended; we only have so many opportunities to forgive.
My relationship with my uncle was one that grew out of my own brokenness. As a child, I didn’t know my mother’s family well. We didn’t see or hear much from them–and vice versa–because we were geographically removed. Her family thrived on a closeness of proximity, and that was something we lacked. I wrote to him, honestly, not desiring a relationship with him so much as I desired to know more about my grandfather who had died several years before my birth. I’m not sure I recognized it at the time, but I was greatly struggling with my identity–who I was, where I belonged–and somehow, he reached through all of those questions and touched my heart. “You belong with me,” he assured me over and over by his actions. And the amazing thing is, I believed him. I absolutely believed him.
There has not been a moment of my relationship with him when I’ve questioned his love for me. There has not been a moment when I’ve questioned whether I could call or write or show up on his doorstep and cry all over his shoulder. There has not been a moment when I’ve questioned whether he believed in me and my dreams. He brought hope and joy and laughter to a gal who was hurting and lost. These are the gifts of love. These are the gifts I will cherish and hold close to my heart for the rest of my life.
It doesn’t erase the sorrow of losing him. I suspect it never will. It does, however, allow a clear, obvious, logical, and satisfying resolution to a beautiful piece of music that has permeated my life. When we leave a relationship unmended and we lose the person, it’s like being cut off in the middle the symphony. We are left without a sense of finality, without the final chord that resolves all of the tension that has been slowly building over time.
In a couple of weeks, my family will be gathering for our Reunion. It is a time I always look forward to sharing with my dear uncle. It will be difficult for many of us, to be sure. I hope, however, that it will also be a balm to us, to embrace and remind one another that we are family and we love one another and we grieve together.
In the meantime, dear friends, remember that it’s okay to grieve.