The service for Chuck today was perfect. I imagined him scoffing at all the sentimentality, and secretly loving every minute. I have always known my sense of humor, sarcasm and defiance came from him. And I thank him and love him for that.
Here is the speech I gave:
On Saturday the weather suddenly changed. It went from feeling like summer to being so cold I needed my winter parka. That night, the wind was particularly loud. I wouldn't call it eerie, but somehow appropriate. Something was happening here and the universe was responding. Narrating.
Time was frozen. It was absolutely stopped. The night seemed endless as we sat by Chucks bedside. Around 1 am I decided it would be best to go home and sleep so I could come back rested in the morning for another long day of this surreal waiting game.
Sunday morning, May 27 2012 things felt…different. We made it through the limbo of last night. It was sunny. The weather continued to narrate this story. I felt a stronger sense of peace. Something had transpired. And time had started to speed up again.
I was out the door on my way to Farah’s house as fast as I could. In the few minutes it took me to get to her house, Chuck made his exit from this life.
My dad waiting outside to tell me he was gone is something I’ll never forget.
And this is the part of the story where my world, and my families, cracks open and everyone is instantly changed. It is exactly like they say it will be, and completely different at the same time.
When I was inside, I looked at him.
Wait. Wait a minute.
The spiritual scientist in me had been as matter of fact as I could be up until this point. I was worried about one person losing a father, another a brother, or a son, but wait. Wait a minute. That's MY UNCLE. That's MY Uncle Chuck.
Every emotion that came over me after that was not in any way, shape or form something that I expected to feel. The scientific mind in me wants to protect me so hard that it forgets to talk to my heart on the biggest matters sometimes. It’s my defense mechanism for when it’s going to be more than I can bear.
I left last night. I left. I left. I left. How would I ever forgive myself? And how could this happen in the minutes it took me to drive over? There was my Chuck. My Chuck.
There, but no longer there. That was so profound I don't know if I can put into words what that experience was. All I wanted to do was for him to wake up for a minute so that I could have a final conversation.
Wait. Wait a minute. I didn't know last night was the last night of his life. I didn't know the last time I saw him at his apartment would be the last time he'd be at his apartment. Or at the hospital. Or the last time we were in a car together on the way to a doctor appointment. On a particular day where I didn't want to be there and wasn't even being pleasant. Let me just have one more minute. To bring you another donut and chocolate milk. To take my dog to visit you. To play a prank on you. To answer the phone when you call instead of sending it to voicemail.
There is no such thing as being prepared for a goodbye. There is no such thing as being ready. It doesn’t matter if someone is sick and you know it’s coming. There is no moment you’re ready to walk out of the room, knowing it’s the last time you’re going to see someone. That kind of closure, that kind of readiness does not exist.
I wanted to crawl onto the bed, where he looked so cozy and somehow at home and just snuggle next to him.
What a day. What a day, seeing the reactions of my family.
The word that had been creeping up on me the last few nights and was now taking hold was “unbearable”. Losing a loved on is nothing short of unbearable. The little circle of my family, the family I have been closest too and have grown up with, at times more like siblings than aunts or unlces, was now broken. Forever changed.
Now the world would be seen through a new filter.
I’ll never forget that day. "The day of impossible goodbyes". The day my families collective heart was broken.
The van and men who picked up our Chuck driving away. There he went. They took our Chuck. Our Chuck. You want to run down the street screaming after them to bring him back in hopes that it’s not real and he’ll wake up.
When the bed was empty, it still was not real. He was at home. He’ll call. We’ll see him at Christmas.
We talked about what a presence he is. So funny. So sarcastic. So loud. So big. Larger than life. One of a kind. That was Chuck.
As I looked at him that Sunday, what I was seeing was no longer that. It was the carrier that had housed all of that for the last 60 years.
I was so profoundly reminded that we are not our bodies at all. They are simply the vessel that takes our spirits, or essence, through life. How strong AND weak our physical bodies are at the same time.
Be good to them, for they are perishable and are merely on loan while we’re here for a short visit on earth.
There was his watch, his glasses. This particularly struck me. My brain had a hard time processing that one minute you need those things, then next you don’t.
Now what do you do with those things? What becomes of things?
I was struck with the importance of detachment. Detach from thinking you are only your physical self. Detach from things. Things don’t matter. Simplify.
I have always believed we are here to be each others teachers. That everything happens for a reason and that all is unfolding exactly as it should…so what happens now. What do we take from such pain?
Right now, I think it is to remind ourselves to live the life we truly want. Not in an unrealistic way, but to be conscious that we are where we want to be or striving toward it. To always follow your heart.
Since there is no way to know when you’ll be faced with a goodbye. That there is no such thing as being ready. But we can try to make our relationships meaningful for when that time does come. Make time for the people you love and who love you. Make sure you not only show them love, but tell them also. Make sure you invest in what matters to you.
Respond to every call that excites your spirit.
And gently remind yourself of patience and compassion for others. You never know the impact you’re having or will have on someone else’s life and what you are teaching them.
And we are forever changed because we got to know Chuck. Because he was in our lives.
And when it feels like we’ll never go back to normal... it’s because we wont. And aren’t we lucky? Aren’t we lucky we had the privilege of having that time with Chuck?
From "The Life of Pi" by Yann Martel
What a terrible thing it is to botch a farewell. I am a person who believes in form, in the harmony of order. Where we can, we must give things a meaningful shape
It's important in life to conclude things properly. Only then can you let go. Otherwise you are left with words you should have said but never did, and your heart is heavy with remorse.
Dare I say I miss him? I do. I miss him. I still see him in my dreams. They are nightmares mostly, but nightmares tinged with love. Such is the strangeness of the human heart. I still cannot understand how he could abandon me so unceremoniously, without any sort of goodbye, without looking back even once. The pain is like an axe that chops my heart.
You are so loved, Uncle Chuck.
* * * * * * * * * * * *