Monday, August 8, 2011


It has been floating around the Omilyverse, but not specifically mentioned thus far because I am simultaneously not good at keeping secrets and prone to keeping my own council when I doubt my ability to react appropriately. Every time I tell someone of something tragic that has recently befallen me I am overcome with the urge to laugh. My Uncle Doug died when the cab of the mini excavater he was working on inexplicably collapsed on him last Sunday morning. I don't want to take up a whole post attempting to express what a worthy man he was, and the sheer injustice of losing him at forty-eight. I'll trust that you know it to be true.

Rather, such an incident has made me reflective on any number of seemingly unrelated topics, from food (always a favourite of mine), to my asana practice (only two classes last week...), to family (I've forgotten how to feel good about getting out of bed in an empty house).

We had just gone home for a visit for the weekend of the 23rd of July, and I had just adjusted to my New York schedule, getting the house clean, writing, teaching, running errands. We were getting our lunch together to take to the beach rather late for attempting that venture on Sunday when I got the call, and because I can only handle grief the way that I handle the rest of life, I finished making the iced tea and we went to the beach. I lay in the sun, letting the sea and sky remind me of eternity, inhabiting someplace in between knowing Uncle Doug to be somewhere, probably with grease under his nails, in Ohio, and knowing that the closest thing to Uncle Doug on this planet was in a morgue scheduled for autopsy, which to make it clear just how surreal and confusing this place was, was in fact in Ohio, and he did in fact have grease under his nails. And yet...yes, I could take my time about it but I had to incorporate into my understanding of the universe that Uncle Doug's soul was wherever it is that souls go when they abandon their clunky earth vehicles.

On Monday we booked the cat-sitter and bought the plane tickets, and we arrived in Ohio late Wednesday night, in time for calling hours Thursday, and the funeral on Friday. It was good to spend time with my cousins; I felt closer to them than I have in years. I was forced to confront the fact that as much as I deify the act of leaving where one's from and all the family in that place, there are indeed downsides to the arrangement. I didn't get to see my grandma one more time before the ventilator was removed, back in October of '09, for example.

I didn't have it in me to give my Mom hell about the lack of wholesome foods in her house. My choice was: eat bananas or suffer malnourishment. We drank vodka gimlets on her back porch, crafting stories we'll tell later, giving ourselves the gift of something to smile about surrounding those days of transition, of letting Doug go.

The funeral service was a long one because everyone had something to say, a memory to share, a need to establish an eternal and witnessed connection with the memory of Doug. In my contribution I managed to both swear and make a Catholic reference. We wrote messages on balloons and released them at the cemetery, ate a big lunch of shredded chicken sandwiches and fruit salad with way too many dessert options, and that was that. Bridge crossed. Transition made. We live in a world that Doug doesn't.

I don't have much of a reason for sharing the inane details of the process of burying the dead in my family. Perhaps it will at least serve the good of making it real to you. Here's the point:

My Uncle Doug was survived by a large extended family, and his wife Connie, and daughter Cora. On Saturday, shortly before my husband and I flew back home, we stopped by my Uncle Shawn and Aunt Trisha's house, where Connie was staying. We stood in their living room and traded some last bits of family gossip to nourish our airborne conversation later on. Connie came into the room with her keys, on her way out the door to pick up dog food for Turner, she and Doug's sausage-shaped black lab currently having a sleep-over with my Grandpa and his yellow lab. I don't remember what was said, but Connie laughed. And there it was.

We may want very much to think that losing someone so close to us as a husband means the world stops, at least for us, that we can step off the ride, and give up. I have tried in vain to imagine a way of surviving without my husband. We are as bound together as Siamese twins as far as I'm concerned, and I have no doubt that Connie felt the same way. And yet, less than a week after that loss, that brutal separation, she picked up her car keys and ran an errand. She laughed.

Halleluiah. There is hope for all of us.

Live Omily, there is little choice about the former, so choose the latter.

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