I recently lost my uncle. I can’t really be certain what his cause of death was because everything happened so fast that I didn’t really understand what was happening.
My uncle landed in the hospital for some sort of infection that caused him to go into septic shock. This wasn’t the first time he had landed in the hospital in ICU. Last time we went through this was two years ago, but this time around, things felt different. He looked peaceful, not in pain. He had a haircut and everything. He was looking fly.
My uncle passed away about a week later, surrounded by his loved ones. I wasn’t in the room at his time of death, because I couldn’t (nor would I have wanted to) bring my daughter upstairs to ICU. We were all taking turns watching her downstairs. My mother was with him and she came down to tell me. I couldn’t believe it and I told myself I wouldn’t go back upstairs, but when I saw my grandfather walk into the hospital, hoping to at least make it to the final prayer, I took it upon myself to take him upstairs. I stood and held my grandmother’s hand. I can remember that day, and the days leading up it them as if it were yesterday. This was the second person that was immediately close to me that I had lost, but the first person in my immediate family unit to pass away.
My uncle was so young. 63 years old. He still had a good amount of time left. He wasn’t the healthiest, though. He had his health issues caused by numerous amount of external struggles. He was stubborn. He wouldn’t ask for help. It just doesn’t seem fair.
In my grief, I think to myself, “What could I have done? How could I have helped? Why hadn’t I called more?” After he passed and we spoke to his hospital social worker, she mentioned that he would always mention this little baby girl that he was so obsessed with. He loved me.He loved my daughter. Sure, he had his daughters, but one was estranged and the other had her family. I was there. He would call me baby all the time. Growing up, me and my siblings were constants to him and we looked up to him.
My maternal grandparents are both still alive and I thank God every day that I still have them. They are everything to me. When this ordeal occurred, I was suffering the most for my grandmother. She lost her first born, her son. As a mother, I can’t even begin to understand her suffering. She has always been so strong, the matriarch of this family, but at 83 years old, with delicate health, I’m not sure how strong she can be anymore.
After he passed away, and the initial shock was over, we had to get our heads in place to focus on the arrangements. My uncle made it clear to my grandmother that in the event he ever passed away, he did not want a viewing/funeral. His wish was to be cremated and have his ashes scattered by a tree that is near the burial site of his grandmother, my great-grandmother in Puerto Rico.
It has been almost two months, and we just received his ashes. The funeral home initially told us it could take a week. There was an excuse every week for the delay and we were seriously considering taking legal action. This was their job, but this was our family member. This was our grief. This was our pain.
I had a dream right after my uncle passed away. We were in an elevator, presumably in my aunt’s building. We then get to a room, with two beds. He lays down in one and I sit on the edge of the other one. He says to me, “I need some tropical air, I think I need to go back to Puerto Rico.” I say to him, “Well, tío, I think now’s not the best time for that, a hurricane just hit! Maybe you can visit the Dominican Republic?” Then my uncle laughs and says, “Nah, I’ll just wait.” Well, my uncle has waited and now we finally have him. My family and I will begin planning the best way to have all of us go out there and fulfill his final wish.
Everyone grieves in their own way. Some are inconsolable. Some go with the flow. Some grieve silently, others grieve loudly. I tend to grieve silently, at times pushing the sadness away. At times I find myself looking for my uncle in the crowd as I walk in an old neighborhood, or expecting to see him one day when I pick up my daughter from my aunt’s house. I know he’s gone, but a tiny part of me just hasn’t let go yet.