Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Uncle Thom

There is no title for this post because I couldn't think of one that was fitting.

My uncle's funeral was yesterday and for some reason I still feel like the whole thing isn't real. I just can't shake it. The service was beautiful but my heart broke over and over and over again.

My Pop cried. My hard, military man grandpa cried. I hate that I know his pain so well. I know the stabbing feeling through your heart when you lose a child and for that moment, I sympathized with him. I grieved for my grandparents instead of for the loss of my uncle. Our losses were different but I knew how they felt. When they played Taps (my uncle was a United States Marine) my Pop saluted my uncle's coffin and said "He was such a good soldier."

I swear my heart shattered into about 7,000 pieces right there in the cemetery.

And my Ma. Good Lord, I have never seen a stronger woman in my life. I never saw her cry. Ever. I admire her strength so much. She lost her son, but instead of grieving in front of everyone else, she stayed strong for the family. Her words were honest and simple, but comforting. I really tried hard not to let her see me cry, but...if you know me, I cry over insanely silly things, so asking myself to keep it together at this time was almost an unfair task for me to ask me to do.

After the grave side service was over I just stood there in the tent and talked to his coffin. I told him if this was his idea of a joke, it was not at all funny. I told him all the things I probably should have told him while he was alive and made promises to him that I hope I can keep. I made him promise to take care of my baby and to meet us all at the gates of Heaven when our time comes. I walked my and laid my daisy on his coffin and placed a kiss right beside that. Ben, as usual, was great and was right by my side the entire time.

His wife was awesome. I would be in the floor, hysterical if anything ever happened to Ben, but she held herself together. She handled herself the way I wish I could have (as I'm sure my sobs from the front row of the church were NOT helpful to anyone). She held tight to their children and her faith and seemed to accept this unfortunate and unfair sequence of events with dignity, class and grace. She sang praises to God and worshiped Him at the funeral instead of being bitter and angry at God (which I fear I would be). I can learn so much from her (and I need to). And in all the madness going on at the funeral, she found time to come to me and tell me how sorry she was for the loss of our baby. She had just lost her husband and she was offering us condolences. If that is not a selfless, compassionate, caring person, I don't know what is.

The night before Thom's funeral (I still can't believe I just typed Thom's funeral) I watched Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium (good movie, by the way). There comes a point where Mr. Magorium is about to pass on and wants to leave the toy store he owns to a dear friend of his and his words hit me like a sack of iron bricks (if there is such a thing).

When King Lear dies in Act V, do you know what Shakespeare has written? He's written "He dies." That's all, nothing more. No fanfare, no metaphor, no brilliant final words. The culmination of the most influential work of dramatic literature is "He dies." It takes Shakespeare, a genius, to come up with "He dies." And yet every time I read those two words, I find myself overwhelmed with dysphoria. And I know it's only natural to be sad, but not because of the words "He dies." but because of the life we saw prior to the words.
I've lived all five of my acts, Mahoney, and I am not asking you to be happy that I must go. I'm only asking that you turn the page, continue reading... and let the next story begin. And if anyone asks what became of me, you relate my life in all its wonder, and end it with a simple and modest "He died."
Your life is an occasion. Rise to it.

I cried. Ben was sleeping next to me on the air mattress and I really didn't want to wake him, but I cried so hard. It's all so true. Our life goes on. It has to, because the world around us is not going to stop. The next story has to begin and it's up to us to mourn and be bitter through the next chapter or to celebrate the life that Thom lived, learn from his life and make the best of our remaining time here.

If nothing else, this has shown me how fragile life is. Last Saturday, Thom and his family decorated my Ma and Pop's Christmas tree and a week later he was gone. So now, I am really trying to see the bigger picture. When Ben forgets to throw away his Diet Coke can, it's not that big of a deal. When he asks to snuggle before bed, even if I am comfy and warm, I need to move over and give him that time. Elliott (my younger brother if you don't know) is wild and unpredictable, but he is my Uncle Thom reincarnated. When he calls 98 times in a 15 minute time period, I need to accept his calls and give him the time he deserves.

So go hug your hubs and your kids (if you have them) and your dogs. Accept and love the time you are given and enjoy it. Take it all in. Even when things seem like they are the worst, someone else will always have it worse than you (and make sure you pray for them).

Thom- I miss you, we all miss you. I will always cherish the memories I have of you (Road Atlanta, the trampoline of near fatal incidents in your side yard, Shogun and Zeus, Liberty Restaurant and my wedding, especially the Champagne incident). Don't worry about Jenny and the kids, they will be taken care of. So, go be an angel and do whatever it is angels do. Keep an eye on my baby, don't let him get too wild. Teach him about grace and guitars and humanity and God's love and throw in a little silliness and insanity that you were, and still are, known so well for. Meet me at the gates when my time comes.

For a very nice article written about Thom, click here. A good friend of his and my dad's wrote a piece in honor of him and it provides another glimpse of the man I am proud to call my Uncle.

Molly Mahoney: Are you dying?
Mr. Edward Magorium: Light bulbs die, my dear. I am departing.


aLLieBooBeRZ said...

Girl I am so sorry for your loss and this post is verrrrry beautifully written!! I admire your strength and I always wonder how people keep it together so well. I would never imagine myself to be one of those strong people, never. I fall apart.

Thank you for sharing this and I am so so sorry for your loss.

AmandaHoyt said...

Cate, I am so sorry for your loss. You wrote this post beautifully and it shows that you love your Uncle dearly. Take care and know that he is in The Lord's care now.
Hugs and prayers,