My uncle Don died this morning. He was my dad's older brother.
I visited him last night. Before I could enter his private room in ER, I had to wash my hands, put on latex gloves and hospital gown tied in the back. He was sleeping in a medicated state. He looked more peaceful in his sleep than he did earlier this week when I visited him while in tremendous pain.
I stared into his sleeping face and could see my father in him. And his mother, too. When I wasn't looking at him, I would stare at the monitor that would sometimes remain flat-line for a moment or two before zig-zagging up and down and I wondered if he would die while we were there, holding his hands. I knew his life was nearing it's end.
I found it comforting that I could feel his warmth through the plastic in my gloves. His life still beating inside him.
I wondered if my dad was nearby in the spirit to welcome him in the afterlife. Surely, his wife Patt was there. She died ten years ago in the room next door in the very same emergency room. His son died earlier this year. Such a huge sorrowful loss in this family.
My mom and I and brother and sister and her boyfriend circled around his bed.
They talked to him. Stroked his forehead. They were so comfortable and natural with him. I just stood there feeling shy and clumsy and at a loss of words. I hoped he knew I was there. That perhaps my presence, though silent, could be felt more louder than any words I could utter.
It's been quite the year of loss.
He is the 14th person I know who has died this year already. Since the beginning of October, I know eight people who have died. Eight!
Another uncle of mine died on Halloween. I've lost two cousins in the Spring. My sister's boyfriend lost his father a few weeks ago. One of my mom's dear friends died the week before that. Too many lives lost. Death doesn't seem to care. It's just plucks people out at random.
Like the woman I knew who died unexpectantly this past summer. What was supposed to be a joyous occasion of giving birth to her first child, she had an unknown heart condition and died of a heart attack during labor. Her unborn son also died in the process. Leaving behind a grief-stricken husband and her family there in the birthing room. How does one deal with that weight of loss?
Her voice is still on my answering machine. I can't bare to listen to it, but I haven't been able to push delete yet, either.
It's just too final.
My heart goes out to the Wallace Family and I'm wishing Tracy an extra dose of love and grace.