On love and loss

My uncle passed away earlier this week, a mere two days after his 68th birthday. Some knew him as a musical prodigy, a legend in the behind-the-scenes world of Nashville country. Others knew him as the guitarist sitting there after church, telling stories for hours. Or the friendly and helpful truck driver with the perfect safety record. Or something more notorious, which I’m not yet ready to discuss.

To me, however, he was just Uncle Eddy.

I knew him in a way few others did. I was his nephew, but he often treated me like his own son, as well as his friend and confidant. We lived in the same house (rather, mobile home) for three years. After that, I still saw him often, though my visits necessarily grew less frequent. As his health worsened, I would only see him about once a month, and that was for two reasons. First, a lack of transportation meant that I didn’t always have a way to get to him. Even if I wanted to see him, to talk to him in person, I didn’t have that opportunity as often as I would have liked.

The second (and more important, in my opinion) reason is that, well, I just couldn’t stand to see him that way. It was frustrating, because I share his generous spirit, his empathy for all. To see my uncle lying in a bed, unable to stand, to walk, and eventually to eat or speak, broke my heart. Combining with that were my repeated attempts to cajole him into action, recuperation, or even just to finish what was on his plate.

All of those inevitably failed. He grew sicker, frailer, weaker, and…that took its toll on me, too. As I watched my uncle’s physical health decline, my mental health followed the same trajectory. How could it not? I gave advice; it was ignored. With my preexisting lack of self-esteem, I could only see it in one light: I failed him. And I won’t deny that I lashed out a few times. I did because I love my family, and I want only the best for all of them. But I sometimes feel as though they don’t understand that I’m only trying to help, which just makes me angry. You spend decades telling me that I’m the smartest person you’ve ever known, yet you won’t listen when I explain what’s wrong and give you a way to fix it? More than anything, I think that contributed to my deepening depression.

But it really wasn’t my uncle’s fault. I recognize that now. At many points during his decline, he was not in his right mind. At other times, those who cared for him, whether family and friends or professionals, interfered. Understanding that, making myself realize that I did the best I could, is part of the healing process.

That process has only just begun, and I can’t say how long it will take, where it will end. I cope by writing, so I’ll be doing that for a couple of weeks, at least. And maybe what comes out of it won’t be the best story I’ve ever created, but it will help. It will help me get over this loss that strikes so close to my heart. It will give me an outlet for my grief, so I won’t take it out on those I love. Because they don’t need any further pain. They’ve been through enough already.


Thank you for reading. Before I go, I want to share a couple of links with you.

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