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.