A week ago yesterday morning I received news that my mom’s brother, Uncle George, had passed away two days prior, on Sunday, finally succumbing to his liver cancer. I’ve written about Uncle George before. He lived life fast and hard in his younger years, and his liver cancer was a result of that.
He was a US Navy vet who served during the early 70s and had been being treated by the VA for several years. At one point he had been on a liver transplant list, but when the cancer was diagnosed, he made the decision to not undergo chemo or other treatment.
He and I had talked in the last year about how he had made peace with God and how his relationship with God had been strengthened. He knew he was going Home to see his Heavenly Father when the time came, and for that reason, he was ready to go whenever it happened.
Sadly it happened just a week and three days ago. I had just spoken with Uncle George the prior Tuesday when he called to talk to Mom. He had wanted to talk to me in the aftermath of the Paris attacks and implored me to not go to Europe for a while. He was a considerably conservative man and liked to call and discuss current events and politics. He was also an incredibly intelligent man. I’m not sure how high his IQ was, but it was up there.
I wasn’t very close to him (certainly not as close as I am to my other uncle), but I still loved him. He was still my mother’s brother.
In losing him, I feel like we’ve lost so much. Gone are the stories that we never heard from him about his time in the navy, his years of hard living, the history of the American Indian part of our family. Gone is his dry sense of humor (so much like my brother’s), his intelligent discussions and insights, his quick wit.
I have been struggling with this so much. I ended up in tears each time I headed to the bathroom at work last week. Not just tears, but deep sobs. For someone I wasn’t that close to, it hurt a lot. I wonder if it’s because I’m getting older and I’m coming to realize that my parents or other relatives could be next.
I think a large part of what I’m feeling is guilt and regret. I feel guilt and regret for not calling him. I feel guilt and regret for not getting up to see him like we had planned to do. I feel guilt and regret for not talking to him and learning more about him and REALLY getting to know him. I let him slip through my fingers. And I feel guilt and regret for that.
Last Thursday, four days after his passing, was Thanksgiving here in the states, and while I regret my missed opportunities and am angry at myself for inaction when it comes to my relationship with Uncle George, I am so thankful that I knew him and had the opportunity to have the bit of time I had with him over the last 14 years. I’m thankful that he overcame his addictions to become a productive member of society who was willing to share his story to help others. I’m thankful that he found love again after his wife was killed in a car accident about eight or so years ago. I’m thankful for the insights he did share with us. Knowing from his wife just how sick he was and how horrible he’d been feeling in the days preceding his death, I’m thankful that he’s no longer sick or suffering. But most of all, I’m thankful that he was at peace enough to be ready when the time came. At the risk of offending some, as I know that religion and God tend to be hot buttons, I am most thankful that Uncle George’s relationship with God was strong. He knew where he was going upon his death and was ready. I envy that peace and sureness. I hope that Uncle George’s life and death can be a lesson to me in that respect.