Monday, August 27, 2012

Mourning Becomes Electra*

My uncle died last Wednesday.

He'd been ill for a number of years, so while the death wasn't completely unexpected, it was still something of a surprise, as I guess deaths always are.

He was my dad's older brother, and the one he'd always been closest to.  This meant that we were close growing up - our families were always together - living together, even, some times.  We'd spend weekends at their house when we were kids, sleeping over and going to baseball games and chatting at the kitchen table about everything and nothing.

He was a funny, funny man.  One of those people who loved having a good time and making fun of circumstances and of himself.  Driving up to the funeral, we talked about the time he did this or that, how you'd never believe it if you hadn't been there, and always, always his reactions with a colorful [generally profane] turn of phrase.

He was kind-hearted and LOVED kids; he was thrilled when I had the girl, even though he had 6 grandchildren of his own by then.  I have pictures of him and my dad laying down on either side of the girl when she was only a few days old, and the happiness on both their faces always makes me smile.

I hadn't seen my uncle much in the past few years.  He and my aunt had moved 4 hours away when he retired to live with my cousin and her family. Four hours isn't much, I know, but 4 hours when you're raising a family and working and . . . well, there are always excuses.  And a big excuse was that he'd been sick with Alzheimer's for a number of years, so seeing him was seldom satisfying. My grandfather had Alzheimer's and it was always painful to visit him when he was in the final throes - the complete dissociation and the wondering how to connect and if it was even worth it for them.  I'm sure it was, and it is, and I never regret visiting.  I guess I only regret not visiting enough.

I'm not mired in sadness - as I said, my uncle had been ill for years.  We're not a family that thrives on melancholy; our default reaction is laughter and mockery.  And there were many moments during the few days we were dealing with the funeral that we laughed inappropriately.  I mean, we made some EXTREMELY sick jokes. I, for one, snort-laughed at something the girl said during part of the service and two rows of VERY judgmental looking women gave me the stink eye.  I'm sure I'll be talked about for years.

Which is fine - that can be one of those funny stories people tell to make themselves feel better when they need it.

I hope you take a minute this week to think of something funny.  Let's all make ourselves feel a little bit better.


* Do you know this play by Eugene O'Neill? I'm pretty sure I've read it, but in any case, it's the one phrase that jumps to mind whenever there is a death. I love how lyrical it is.


  1. I'm sorry to hear about your uncle. Whether you're close to someone who passed away or not, the death is still a reminder that we're only given a certain amount of time on this effed up planet of ours. Enjoy those who make you happy and try to spread a little of that around when you can, if only to make yourself feel a little bit better.

    My thoughts are with you and your family!

  2. I'm so sorry.

    We, too, are a family who deal with death with humour. This usually results in a smile at the memories of those who are gone, and not tears.

    Most of the time.

  3. Aww, i'm sorry for your loss :(

  4. Once again, we were so close and yet so far (plus, I ended up sick all weekend so not meeting up was for the best). Your attitude in remembering him in his prime is inspirational.

  5. LOVE that you've done this for your uncle.

    To be remembered and mourned, to have known that we made someone's life better and brought joy: what other definition of sucess is there?

  6. I love the title of this play - and your post.

    Also the sentiment. (Of your post. Although it's not "sentimental" in the negative know?)


    I'm rambling and will stop now.
    And will instead labor to think of something funny so we can both feel a bit better.


  7. Yep, it's official. We're not allowed to sit together at a funeral, EVER.

    Your writing is gorgeous. GORGEOUS, I say. Your uncle is proud of you, honey. I'm sure he'd much rather go out with a laugh than a cry. I know I would.


  8. I'm sorry to hear about your uncle.

  9. Yep, mortality sucks. Thank-you for reminding me that I should email my husband's grandmother. And that laughter is never misplaced (no matter what SOME stick-up-the-butt people might think). Hugs.

  10. hi love. so sorry for your loss. and since my family thrives on melancholy, my heart goes out for you. sending love and hugs.

  11. Death just pretty much always sucks, is the thing. Even though maybe for your uncle - and the rest of you - having him no longer in the suspended animation that is Alzheimers - maybe that was a relief. But hell to the yes, I hope that people are laughing at my funeral - is that weird? Because laughter is, I think, a better gift, a bigger gift, than tears.
    And I'd like to say something really funny & profane here but I got nothing. Just hugs.


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