I always feel energized after my early morning walk with my dog. On today's walk we saw several robins hopping around and a magnificent red-winged black bird singing his little heart out. Birds are chirping and rustling in the trees and shrubs along the canal where I live and the dog is busy sniffing exciting new scents. Nature is coming back to life all around us.
So it is with sadness that we received news last week of a death in the family. A much-loved uncle has passed after a long, interesting life. He was 93 and had been in frail health the last few years. In photos that his son sent us just days before his passing, we could see that he was tired of living. His eyes had that look that comes with a pre-eminent departure, a look that seems to say….I no longer have the vitality to be here….In that sense, it wasn’t a tragic death at all, yet for us who loved him, the turning of that page leaves a hole.
My husband used to tell me about his uncle long before I ever met him. He was a Naval Officer, a devoted son to his widowed mother, a supportive older brother to my mother-in-law. To my husband, who lost his father at a young age, he was a surrogate father. When I first went to the family home where my husband was brought up, I saw a framed photo of his uncle in his naval uniform and I saw for myself that his handsome face showed the humour, determination and kindness hubby was always telling me about. When I finally met him he did not disappoint. His face was open and smiling and full of curiosity and I could see that he had influenced my husband greatly because they had many of the same traits.
In subsequent years, after he had retired, he made it a point to come and see us when we would visit my mother-in-law and we even managed to make a few day trips together, once, to the delight of our son, to visit a war ship, another time to explore the walled-in city of Carcasonne.
In spite of the fact that in his later years he had to look after his wife who suffered from dementia, he was always in a cheerful mood, always interested in what others had to say. He never bemoaned his fate, never complained. He wasn’t a very tall man but he made up for that by always carrying himself with great dignity. He was an excellent tennis player and a graceful dancer. He was, above all else, a loving father to his children.
Of the many lovely memories I have of this uncle, the most enduring one is surely his arrival at our niece’s wedding a few years back. He was in his late eighties, recently widowed and had survived a serious back operation, yet he walked as erect as ever, in a pin-striped summer suit, white shoes and a a killer pair of sunglasses. He smiled at everyone but saved his brightest for the bride. And afterwards, in the evening when the music started he could be seen asking all the ladies at the reception to dance. And dance they did; The paso doble, foxtrot, cha cha. He knew them all and he executed his steps beautifully on that dance floor while the rest of us watched in awe and clapped.
On our next visit we could see he had diminished slightly. His hearing had gone and he walked a little slower, with a bit of a bend in his spine. He was still interested in everything but without being able to hear properly, the strain of following a conversation sometimes proved too much. He ate less and napped more. On the morning of our departure, hubby tiptoed into his room to say his good-bye. He kissed his uncle on the forehead and told him how much he loved him which is a wonderful thing to have done because it turned out to be the last time we would see him.
Although this springhas brought our family heartache, it has also brought great joy, for we have recently found out that we will become grandparents in the fall. One life gone, another well on its way.