“I was looking at the photographs and I started thinking that there was a time when these weren’t memories.” ~ Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Death has been the theme for me this past month with my uncle passing away last week and the 21st death anniversary of my sister on March 31.
Because of the lockdown last year, I was not able to visit my sister’s grave. I had been dreaming about her recently and I took it as a sign that it was time to make the trek down to Maryland to visit her.
St. Rose of Lima Church | Gaithersburg, Maryland
She is in a nice resting place. The grounds are well kept, and she is located underneath a tree next to the church. I sat with her awhile and told her that I missed her. I apologized for not visiting more often, but I know that she knows that she is always in my heart.
She died in 2000, so camera phones were not yet widely available, I don’t think. It was not how it is these days, with a camera readily available at your fingertips. These days, people take photos of everything, and I am grateful for the technology and to have the opportunity to document and immortalize important events in my life with videos and photographs.
I wish I had taken more photos with my sister. I don’t have nearly enough. All I really have are my memories, and those sadly tend to fade with time.
“And when he died, I suddenly realized I wasn’t crying for him at all, but for the things he did. I cried because he would never do them again, he would never carve another piece of wood or help us raise doves and pigeons in the backyard or play the violin the way he did, or tell us jokes the way he did. He was part of us and when he died, all the actions stopped dead and there was no one to do them the way he did. He was an individual. He was an important man. I’ve never gotten over his death. Often I think what wonderful carvings never came to birth because he died. How many jokes are missing from the world, and how many homing pigeons untouched by his hands? He shaped the world. He did things to the world. The world was bankrupted of ten million fine actions the night he passed on.” ~ Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
My uncle passed away last week. He was my father’s youngest brother. Among my father’s siblings, there’s only my father and his next oldest brother left. My father will turn 83 this year, and my uncle will turn 85 in June.
I had not seen my uncle since 2016, and prior to then, I had not seen him since I was a child. It is a curious thing how memories bind our love towards people even when we rarely see them. I have lifelong memories of my uncle from when I was about nine years old. We lived in California then and my uncle had not married yet. He came to our house often. I think he even lived with us for a time, if memory serves me correctly. Anyway, I remember how he was the “fun” uncle who would buy us candies and make us laugh. He had a wonderful singing voice too, reminiscent of Matt Monro. When I was around ten, my uncle married and then my cousin was born. After that, we rarely ever saw them, and some years later, my family moved to the East Coast, and I never saw him again until my visit to California in 2016.
I feel as though I am not worthy to speak of him since I rarely ever saw him. In a span of a year, I probably only thought of him a few days out of the 365 days, on holidays and such. But love does not keep score, does it? Time and distance have no weight when you love someone. It is just there. And now he’s gone. But the love is still there. It was always there. And I will miss him and mourn all the days we did not spend together, but I will hold tightly to the memories I have held since I was a young girl.
“We are who we are, because of those we choose to love and because of those who love us.” ~ Kate Mosse, The Winter Ghosts
Twenty years ago, I dated a guy, MK, for about two years. Although we did not officially live together, we always stayed over each other’s place. He lived in a house with his brother and his two cousins. His room, which he shared with his brother, D, was in the the basement. I spent many days and nights hanging out with the two of them, and throughout the course of my relationship with MK, I started to look at D like he was my own little brother.
When MK and I broke up, I remained on good terms with him, and with D. Oftentimes I think that D was far more devastated about the breakup than either MK or I was. Although we still treated each other like family even after we separated, eventually we drifted apart and it has been a number of years since we have heard from each other.
But on the 7th day of this life of quarantine and isolation, I heard my phone ring, and when I looked at my phone, I saw D’s number flashing on my phone.
Without hesitation, I picked up his video call. I see his face, and instantly, my heart smiles. Immediately he asks, “Are you ok? I’m calling because I’m worried about you. Get out of the city and come stay with us. I’ll drive up and come get you guys.”
It wasn’t a meaningless invitation that people usually blurt out. It was a genuine invitation borne out of love and concern. It was sincere and touching, and I haven’t felt this loved in a long while.