There’s so many cliche sayings about living: enjoy every minute; just do it; there’s no time like the present…. the list goes on and on. Life on the other hand is finite. I choose to believe that our earthly energy carries on outside of our flesh and bones; there is an afterlife. We meet our tribe again including beloved pets. But the transition from life to death is painful both physically and emotionally.
We are saying goodbye to my uncle. My dads only brother. They’ve been through thick and thin since the early 1930’s. Born in a small town in eastern Germany (now Poland) to parents who worked hard and long days. Through the war as youngsters where starvation was commonplace . Through refugee processes that left them homeless; removed from their home suddenly and shipped separately to nearby farms to work and then ultimately transported to resettlement in west Germany. Through apprenticeships and work life. Through adventurous immigration to Canada. Through marriages and children. Through retirement. Then grandchildren and, for my uncle, great grandchildren. A full colourful life rich in experience and family.
We celebrated his 89 birthday in December. His spirit was good but his body betraying him a tall slender man, his once healthy figure was reduced to a thin frail wisp. It was mildly shocking to see. He was having difficulty eating; the doctors diagnosed IBS and he was waiting for further testing to be done the following month. Eating was painful and caused severe cramping and bloating. Only a few short weeks later he was admitted to hospital too weak to stand. IBS was in fact an aggressive stomach cancer.
He was sent to hospice yesterday.
My dad is experiencing a sad range of emotions. Typical grief cycle I presume. He went through a similar process when his best friend got sick and died. That was a much longer ordeal; his friend was not ready or willing to die. My uncle however seems resigned to his fate. At his birthday lunch last month i suggested we have a big party for his 90th; he smiled and chuckled. He’s said I won’t make it to 90.
Dad is angry that more wasn’t done or isn’t being done now to treat his brother. Of course you always want to have hope. It’s difficult to say if things might have played out differently had there been proper diagnosis and treatment of the real issue. But we do know that my dad and his brother are equally stubborn and tough. Not wanting to be a burden or admit weakness. Even to the point of great suffering and pain.
Dad is confused. During his daily visits to his brother in hospital he gets bits of information in and out of context. Dad is an uncomplicated man and this scenario is very complicated. He is not (wanting to) grasping the harsh reality of the situation. Logic and emotion are duelling in his mind and he’s missing the links.
They’ve taken my uncle off IV. My uncle told my dad he was going to starve to death. My dad heard him but didn’t want to listen or comprehend. It’s ironic that starvation would be a major factor in their lives again. My dad is internalizing his pain.
I’m sad to say goodbye but I know that he will receive a warm welcome in the afterlife. There’s many family and friends waiting for him. Including my cousin Barbara and their wonderful family dog Lady. Those left behind here will be sad. I just want to hug my dad.
Love the people God gave you because one day He’ll take them back.
Godspeed Onkel Heinz.