Wednesday, October 26, 2005

To the loved ones, departed

I have been light on my writing, due to some serious events here.

The first was fairly mundane, I started my new job last Monday, and I have frankly been too preoccupied with learning the processes to spend a lot of time writing.

But much more serious, was hearing my uncle had died of emphysema the 15th, 2 days before I started that job.

As a matter of background, my father's family is very large. He is second eldest of 13 children. The children arrived from around 1932 to 1953, and all 13 lived and grew into adulthood, despite 3 of them serving in the Marine Corps in Korea (my dad included); despite a much high mortality rate from childhood diseases; and despite having 11 rowdy boys, a feat that I consider to be somewhat blessed all on it's own.

My grandmother is, or should be, a certified saint, having raised these 11 boys and 2 girls. (don't pity the heavily outnumbered girls, they are today two of the most amazing and strong women I know) Grandmother was named Mother of the Year in San Jose California in the mid 50s, a title she earned many times over.. She was also on her own from the mid 60s or so when my grandfather died. I hardly knew him really, but she remains a firm memory.

Allen, my departed uncle was the 4th oldest, age 69. He had been a smoker since high school, apparently, and it caught up with him. I wont repeat his obituary, but suffice to say he marched to his own drummer. For example, he loved motorcycles, and after leaving the Marine Corps he rode for a while with the Hells Angels in LA. Allen never did anything in a conventional fashion. He later became a tax assessor, the only family member I know of to serve in a public office. Consider the extreme changes from Marine, to biker to politician. This was the complex man Allen was.

He eventually married, raised three great kids and upon his death had several wonderful grandkids.

My aunts and uncles descended on Redding this weekend. One of my aunts came up earlier in the week to share her sorrow, but had to depart. One uncle dropped by the night before the service to my cousins house where we gathered, but also had to depart. At the service though, my father, 8 his brothers and one sister all were gathered, along with Allen's children, a couple more cousins besides myself, and some close friends.

The sad part of the whole event came as Allen's mother not only could not come, but has not been told. She is very old now, her memory failing. The decision was made not to tell her, because it would really serve no purpose as it is unsure how much she would understand, and how she would respond, as well as the fact that her health is too fragile for her to have been able to attend even if she had understood.

To me that was the saddest part.

My father's family has been a joy to me, for they embody so passionately what we all strive for: Love. And with this tragedy, they again have fallen back to that foundation of love and support that all seem to
naturally feel.

When my step mother died in 1999, the reaction was the same as it was here this weekend, the gathering from all corners of the country to share the memories of a loved one, and to show support and love as all shared my father's grief.

This weekend, even as all grieved the loss of a father, or a loved one, or a brother, they also rejoiced in a life filled with memories and laughter as they recalled their favorite moments of his life and events they all shared with him.

I still struggle with life, its mysteries and death. I still have a hard time reconciling my feelings on the whole subject.

What I did recognize on Saturday however gives me hope and a lot of comfort. It was a concept so simple in its nature, and so deeply profound in its effect.

Imagine, if you will, my father and his siblings all standing in a circle, holding hands. When Allen was lost from that circle, a gap now existed. But only momentarily, as all stepped slightly forward, shortening the length of the circle. The two open ends joined hands, and once again completed the circle.

The circle has changed, yet remains a circle. And as an ironic bonus, all are a little closer together then they were before.

In the circle of our family, where some families fracture with deaths, ours just draws closer together.

Rest in peace Uncle Allen, you will never be forgotten, for you live in our hearts and we hear your voice in our laughter.