Seeing everyone changing their colorful happy clothes to black along with their cheerful wedding spirit to somber and bleak one hit me really hard. Just like that, in a blink of an eye, a wedding turned to a funeral. One second, my uncle was dancing with us under the laser lights, the other he way lying breathless in the morgue. I was 23 at the time and it messed me up real good. I realized that there was no logic behind how death works and when it’s gonna hit you or any of your loved ones. I looked at my uncle’s children and their helplessness in digesting what had happened. I took a hard look at myself and everyone around me that I loved. What if it was my dad? What if it was my mom? What if it was me? Unable to let it go, I became obsessed with guessing death’s next move. Because my uncle was a strong father figure, the obsession fixated on my dad.
My Dad’s Sciatica
The day we buried my uncle, my dad’s sciatic nerve pain hit him hard. He laid down almost all day in agony, unable to move. He limped when he was walking and his face was covered with white long beard. My dad was a faithful shaver. He never let his beard grow but those days, he could barely move. Seeing my always cheerful, strong and independent dad so needy and weak and covered in white beard had me thinking. Was he next? Was he going to die soon? Was I gonna go through the same thing that my cousins did when their father died right in front of us? How was I going to survive this? I went to sleep each night afraid that the next morning, I would wake up and find my dad dead. For a long time, he refused to walk with a cane. He was and still is a proud man. and when he saw that he really needed the damn cane, he asked for the cane he used when he was mountain climbing. I cried under my sheets, I cried in the shower, I cried when no one was looking. I imagined my dad’s funeral. I imagined how much I was going to regret not spending more time with him, not saying how much I loved him enough. My dad and I were not so close. I really admired him for his perseverance in life and his fierce stand against the face of all the problems and difficulties. But we were never good with emotions. Especially face to face spoken display of affection and love. I was never able to communicate with my dad the way I wanted to. It seemed like true communication was impossible for us due to some invisible force. but I admired him whole-heartedly. I was proud to have such a fantastic high spirited dad who cheered everyone up in family gatherings. I wish I was a strong and as fierce as my dad. I wish I made him proud. But I found myself a pretty ordinary and mediocre child for my dad. I always wanted to write book about his life. I even asked him write down his memories for me so that I could record as much detail as possible. Now, I was nowhere near that point in my writing career. The time I spent with my parents was all filled with regret. Regret for not being able to communicate. I constantly told myself that I was going to regret all these moments wasted when they are gone but in reality, I couldn’t do anything different. I couldn’t change the nature of our relationship. I couldn’t tell anyone that all I think about every day is when and how my dad was going to die. It haunted me and it still does.
Five years later, my grandmother died
Two months ago, my grandma (my mom’s mother) died. She too, had a stroke. Like her son. The same mourning rituals were performed for her as well. Everything looked and felt like 5 years ago. We buried my grandmother next to my uncle. Being in the similar situation brought back lots of terrible memories from the first days after my uncle’s death. We put a picture of my grandmother on a table next to my uncle and my grandfather (who died when I was 13 and hopefully too young to realize that death can and will happen to everyone). Although everyone was mourning and crying, nothing was as severe and dark as five years ago. My mom and her brothers and sisters were all okay in general. There was a big difference: my grandmother was hospitalized for a week before she died. They all had time to cope with the idea that she might not wake up again. When she died, they were prepared. We all were. No one was in shock. No one had to go through a shift as high contrast as wedding/funeral. No one had to scratch off their peach nail polish. no one had to change from red high heels to plain black loafers. Death took another one of us but he wasn’t cruel or sarcastic about like the time before that. My dad’s sciatic nerve pain was gone. He didn’t have to walk with a cane but he never went back to hiking in the mountains. He never used that cane for its original purpose. I still thought about his death. but it felt like five years was enough time to cope with the idea ant not to be totally overwhelmed by it.
Deep inside, I’m still broken
Five years have passed since my uncle passed away. My dad is as fit as a fiddle. I don’t toss and turn in my bed at night thinking about my father’s death but I still think about it. I still think about how it can once again change everything around me forever. My aunt (my mom’s sister) had an open-heart surgery a few months after her brother died. My mom has been struggling with hypertension ever since. They don’t look the same. My family has changed in a very subtle and yet noticeable way. Having a close encounter with death two times in the past five years, has left me partially paralyzed. Some part of me can never recover from the shock and the pain of loss. It played a big role in who I am today. Sometimes when I struggle in my own self-made mud pool to overcome the impossibility of true communication and reach out to someone out there and try to leave a positive impact on them so that we both could benefit from it, I stand face to face in front of that paralyzed part of me. The part of me which gave up hope five years ago. And yet still, I fight like hell. I fight not to sink in. I fight so that I don’t lose more than I did to that paralysis five years ago. That’s why I haven’t given up. I don’t want to die knowing that I didn’t do all in my power not to remain a minor stroke in life.