Sometimes the smallest things trigger memories for me. I was watching a TV show that had a child dying. The parent was dabbing the child's brow with a damp cloth. Suddenly, I was overcome with emotion, not just because of what I witnessed on the screen, but because it reminded me of what happened as I witnessed my uncle dying.
Towards the end of his life, my uncle was in a semi-comatose state. We were told that he was passing soon and my mother and my uncle's family were all given time alone with my uncle to say our personal goodbye's. We were instructed to dab his forehead. I'm not sure why. I didn't ask, but I did as instructed.
I admit, during the time that I was with my uncle, I didn't know how to behave around him. I'm painfully shy at times and I had never been around someone who was dying and certainly not someone who was skeletal as my uncle was. I didn't know what to say, even more than usual. I felt awkward. I wanted so much to bond with him, but what do you say to someone who is dying a painful death?
We found some ways to bond despite all my awkwardness. We would sit and watch the History Channel together and talk a little bit about horses and his time living on a ranch. We ate fudge together, which was one of the things that he would eat. He was fond of me and told me that I should model and that I looked like one of the Spice Girls. I was chubby and awkward. Being told that, essentially, I was beautiful was something that made me feel more awkward, but in a flattered way. In addition, I felt acceptance from my aunt. The combination was a wonderful experience that I've never been able to actually replace or forget. A feeling that I belonged and was loved.
I felt so strange alone in that bedroom with my uncle. Laying on the bed and talking to this man who had deteriorated so far and who wasn't even responsive. I don't know if he heard anything I said. I hope that he did. I was told before that he responded when I spoke, but I don't know if that was just to make me feel better. I didn't know what to say and how to express my emotions to him. I didn't know what to say to a dying man.
I told him that we would be together again. I said that he would be in heaven and that we would ride horses together and do the same things we did here. We would eat fudge together and we would talk to historical figures that we had talked about. I broke down in tears. I told him I loved him and would never forget him. It broke my heart. I said that I didn't have as much time as I wanted with him and I wished that we had been able to know each other more. Eventually I left.
For some reason, I slept in my aunt and uncle's room that night. I was on the floor at the end of the bed. I can't remember why. I had been sharing a room with my mother. I wonder if my aunt had suggested it because she wanted me there or if she knew that I wanted to be near to them. I remember waking up with my aunt and her daughter talking in the room. I felt awkward because I felt that they were talking about something private and that by being awake, I was intruding. But I didn't want to make it known that I was awake because then they might feel I was intruding. Clearly, I overthink things. Eventually, I got up and went into the living room and settled down with a book. A few minutes later, my aunt started crying from the bedroom. She walked over and held me. She held me and cried. My uncle had died. I cried with her. I'll never forget that.
I miss my uncle. I miss my aunt and that feeling of belonging. I miss the comfort.