My uncle died yesterday.
A life-long smoker, he developed a tumor on his lung, next to his heart. Chemo and radiation therapy didn't help and two weeks ago they took his lung. His other filled with fluid and the doctor's spent a couple of days pumping his lung clear. He was released home, on O2 and a respiration therapist came by once a day to help him learn to live with only one lung.
Yesterday afternoon he wasn't feeling well and my aunt took him to the ER. The doctors there ran tests and said they couldn't find anything wrong with him. So, while watching Monday Night Football, my Uncle Jim passed away.
My wife answered the phone and then said, "You need to talk to your Mom." I immediately knew my uncle had died. Mom was emotional as to be expected; he was her older brother. His daughters, my cousins, will be in So. Cal. today to help with the arrangements and grieve for their father.
Uncle Jim was one of my mom's older siblings. There was Lotus, Vernon, Jim, mom, and Artie. Mom figured Lotus or Vernon would go first being the oldest but thinking about it, no. Vernon, despite any physical drawbacks, was always a strong man. I lived with him and my Aunt Barbara for a year and the man was as active as I was. I was 16! Lotus, despite her age, just keeps plugging along. Always busy with something to occupy her time and mind. She always seemed to be doing something and never, ever struck me as being "old".
I wasn't really close to Uncle Jim but I did feel a connection to him of sorts. When I was a child (I am the oldest, Suz was next, 2 1/2 years younger, then Kurt, who came along 6 years after me), I used to bug my sister...a lot! My mother used to say, "You're just like my brother! You're just like your Uncle Jim!" So whenever I was around Uncle Jim, I would observe him to see how he acted and behaved. It's what young kids do, not understanding the context of grown-up comments. I heard stories from my mom about how Jim used to do this, and Jim and his buddies used to do that. How Vernon and Jim did this and how Jim was always doing that. That kind of gave me a connection to my extended family.
My immediate family rarely lived near relatives. My dad's family all live in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area and my mom's family lives mainly in the Bay Area. We traveled all over due my dad working for Lockheed for years. Nor Cal (3x), So. Cal (3x), Georgia, England, Saudi Arabia and for me, Oklahoma then settled in far Northern California. We saw relatives either for a week in the summer or a week in the winter depending on where we were. We see each other a little more now at family reunions, marriages, and now, more often, funerals.
Still, even though Mom may not have been physically close to Uncle Jim until recent years when Jim and Gloria retired to the Palm Springs area and my Mom and Dad as well as my Aunt Lotus and Uncle Glen, he was still her brother. I'm glad she had the time she did at the end of his life.
Pray for my Aunt Gloria, my cousins, Gretchen and Pam and my extended family.