For days, I've wanted to write about this. I hesitate because it's not my experience at all to share. I was there as a support, an onlooker to something beautiful and sacred. I'm not sure I even have the words. There's a place beyond words, I think, that's more powerful than anything you could ever say; however, I witnessed so much love and am completely affected, awed by it all, I wanted to try.
As many (family) reading my blog know, our Uncle Stephen passed away Friday morning. Thursday, I wanted to be with Shelley, his daughter, to offer whatever support she or the family needed. I wanted to love her and hold her hand through an experience that I had absolutely no experience with. I didn't know what to do or what to say, but I knew I loved her, all of them. A lot.
Like everyone, my loved ones have passed away. In my experience, however, they were always so far away. I didn't feel the pains of losing them because my life went on as normal. I guess being so young when they passed had something to do with it, too. I'm older now. It's different. There's an awareness, in myself, and an awareness of others, their sufferings, etc., but my experience Thursday was so much more...
What feelings I had, as I sat with Shelley, and her siblings: Diana and Emily, Jeff, Aunt Nanette, Uncle Stephen's wife, my own mother, my other Aunts: Kathy and Bev, friends, the hospice nurse, all gathered around his bed. A large, framed picture of their wedding day on the wall. There was always someone holding his hands, rubbing his arms, wiping his brow, putting chapstick on his lips. There were memories shared, glimpses to happy moments, hilarious moments, loving moments of the past. There were moments when nobody spoke at all, but you could feel it. The love was all-encompassing. Even through the tears, there was always so much love.
At one point, another cousin stopped by with her infant son. There he was, this little, tiny baby so new to the world juxtaposed with my Uncle, so close to leaving this world. Shelley made this little guy smile, he even giggled, and it was a reminder of how precious life is, but also, that life goes on. Our life on earth is such a brief moment compared with eternity. It was life's natural cycle, God's plan, right before my eyes.
Sometimes, I had to go downstairs and I'd see Uncle Stephen's grandchildren. They knew what was happening upstairs, but they're children, too. They were visiting with eachother, laughing. They were living their lives. I realized what a role children play in healing. They make you realize just how much life is worth living. They make you want to keep going. What a blessing those little grandchildren will be in the days, months, years to come.
Friday morning, Uncle Stephen passed away. The viewing on Sunday was full of family, friends, associates who loved my Uncle and his family. There was a line for hours, how Shelley's and all the family's feet must have ached as they were comforted and offered comfort. The funeral was the same: so many loving friends and family. It was a beautiful service. A celebration of a life well-lived.
I don't claim to know the depth of sorrow Uncle Stephen's family is feeling, nor the loneliness. I know they miss him terribly. My heart aches for their loss. I also know that they know where he is, that he's not suffering anymore, that he's happy. They know, without a doubt, that they can be with him again.
What do I take from this? Love. Love my family. Love my friends. Look past the little things that don't matter, forgive, make someone happy. Stop thinking about myself. Place value on those things that are of REAL value--Relationships. I hugged Ben a little tighter that night. And lastly, to thank God for His love, for all of us. That He gave His Son, so that when we die, we can live again. Death is certainly not the end, just another beginning.
Shelley and Diana, I love you.