My uncle passed away a few weeks ago, quietly in his bed, with his wife sitting nearby. She said he took a breath, and then he just didn't take any more.
It's been many years since he was the man he was born to be. He had a heart attack and the resulting brain damage broke that filter most of us have - the one that keeps us from repeating the same stories over and over, telling rude jokes in front of children, and making deeply inappropriate comments. To be honest, I didn't...how do you say you didn't really like someone, when they're dead? How can I express that without looking like a right bitch?
My aunt (not the one who was married to him) remarked lately that the family here in Nova Scotia never really got to know the real him, since he only moved here after his heart attack. She remembered visiting with them in Toronto, and they had a picnic in the park, with hotdogs and potato salad. My uncle noticed a homeless man sitting off under a tree, and he went over, sat down beside him, and talked to him for a while. Made up a plate for him. That was what he was really like, she said. And he may always have had a tendency to speak in a loud voice and tell rude jokes, but he was kind and he didn't judge people. (wince)
That's how it is when someone really dies, for good. Looking back now, I admit that yes, all he ever wanted - all he was trying to do - was make us laugh. And now that he's gone, the obnoxious behaviour no longer defines him, and he comes into focus as the unique and ultimately precious individual he was. That we all are, frailties and warts and indiscretions included.
The Family has Come: my father, his seven sisters, and the various spouses and offspring and grand-offspring who all cared enough to make the trek from Ottawa, Toronto, and wherever. Tonight we'll all be eating supper together at the house built for them by their father. And while we're a big family and prone to gather like puppies in a basket, this will be the first time I recall all the aunties being there at once. I wouldn't miss it for the world.