Today’s post is not going to be a story. This is going to be about digesting one. And all the horror it brings. You see, I heard a story today. I went applying for a new job and took an exam. I came back out and got in the car. My family came to pick me up. And there I heard that my uncle, my good and strong and healthy uncle, had had a car accident and died. There’s been some snow lately. He went to work early this morning to spread salt over the parking lots of a business. Then, on a big empty road, some asshole with half a brain crashed in the back of his small tractor. He was killed instantly. I can guess some of the details. I just came back from their place and now I can truly say that I’ve learned a few things. I’ve learned that:
Dying is picking up the phone every two minutes to hear how sorry people are.
Dying is trying not to throw up.
Dying is walking around in circles looking for something to do.
Dying is wanting so hard not to hate the asshole who caused this.
Dying is trying to understand what it means that he “didn’t make it”.
Dying is fathoming that “crash” is lethal and no one will come running in to say he’s in the hospital and going to be fine.
Dying is the prospect of the first Christmas without him.
Dying is walking the dog to get out of the house.
Dying is cooking soup.
Dying is crying babies and the frantic effort to soothe and feed them.
Dying is two teenagers figuring out how to say that their daddy is dead.
Dying is making coffee for the police-officer.
Dying is rounding up biscuits and filling out papers and waiting around for a chance to see him one more time.
Dying is looking for that last photograph.
Dying has nothing to do with saying goodbye.
His family would be the first place I’d run to if I was ever left alone, where I always felt welcome and free to be whoever I wanted to be. They would never turn me, or anybody else, out when I needed help. That family loved each other, trusted each other, were true with one another like hardly any I know. And my uncle was someone to depend on. He was strong and stable. Somebody who knew exactly what to do and what to say. He only did what he loved and anything he did, he did with passion, everything he said, he said with heart. He had a philosophy of his own and he enjoyed life to the fullest, every single day of it.
I can’t help but wondering if that’s why he was granted so many fewer than the rest of us. Now I know for the first time what it means when people leave their loving home and don’t come back. That on such a banal average middle-of-the-week Wednesday someone leaves for work whistling, and returns no more. Now I know what waiting, real, unrelieved waiting feels like. I can’t even make an inventory of everything that’s running though my mind right now. That doesn’t change the fact that I have to come up with some clever rhymes fast for his mortuary card.
I’m not doing this for sympathy. Frankly, I could care less about your condolences, so don’t leave me any. Don’t say you’re sorry, you weren’t even there. Don’t say it’s horrible, I know it is. Unless you can magically bring him back, don’t say anything at all. I just want you to know how good and kind he was and what a loss he leaves and I want you to think. I want you to remember each and every time you pump that gas, for your loved ones’ sakes and everyone else’s. Don’t be some family’s asshole...