The other day I attended my uncle’s funeral. Even though we hadn’t seen each other for years, I had a soft spot for him. He was spunky and vibrant, in excellent health, and had a reputation as a straight talker who wouldn’t suffer fools. The photograph on his memorial booklet’showing him grinning with a line of nine fish?perfectly captured his zest for life.
He was the kind of guy who would write his own eulogy, and did. I was grateful for that, because it documented a long life of service, adventure, and productivity, like his military service in World War II and his career as a rehabilitation worker at some of Edmonton’s best hospitals. We learned that he married Alice one week after meeting her. Now, 69 years later, death has separated them.
He died in his sleep at the age of 95. That sounds so peaceful and Hollywood until you hear that he recently had had a leg amputated and was in a lot of pain. My dad, his brother, passed away in 1995 at age 83. Uncle Metro was my dad’s last surviving sibling (out of a family of thirteen).
With his passing comes a bit of guilt for me. Because my uncle’s mind had remained clear, I always intended to visit him and pick his brain for family memories. I’m sorry and ashamed to admit it never happened. Hell, I didn’t do it with my own dad and have yet to do it with my mother, who’s still alive.
Why do we let things like that slide? What is it in our nature that lets us take the easier path? Or believe we have all the time in the world?
The refreshments and fellowship in the funeral home lounge after the somewhat skimpy service were good. Because my dad was 20 years older than my mom, all of the relatives on his side are so much older. My cousins are old enough to be my parents. Many of them are gone now, too.
It was fun to catch up with the relatives who were there and realize that no matter how or where people live, there are commonalities in the life experience. Three of the women at my table were widows. The issues of downsizing, decluttering, dealing with grown children, and looking for another love are universal. When one widow said she is juggling three ?friends,? naturally I mentioned my services as a marriage commissioner!
It seems that most of us are spending a lot of time, energy, and money on those tinctures, supplements, and behaviours that promise to lengthen and enrich our lives. And it seems to be working. That part of my family has longevity on its side, too. There is a lot of diabetes, but no Alzheimer’s as far as I know. Given a choice I’d rather have my faculties, from where I sit.
Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.