death by paper cut

{September 7, 2015}   A death in the family

An uncle my family has been close to was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer that had already spread to his liver. This was three weeks ago; last night, he passed away. He was surrounded by his family and siblings and was courageous to the end. Since he came to know of his condition, he has been telling us not to be sad and to remember the good times we had. He got his estate in order and looked bravely towards the end.

What I immediately missed about my uncle though, is not the times we had, but the moments in the future that we will not, and I think he knew this too. He told me last week that he always buys Christmas presents for all his nieces and nephews but for my daughter, he wouldn’t be there to give her any.

Another heartbreaking thought that struck me is his absence at Chinese New Year gatherings henceforth. My uncle is probably the only relative I look forward to meeting at large family events, and now what will be most palpably felt is a hole in his shape, muted and immutable.

I do wish that Emma could have the chance to get to know him. I will let her know though, how much she is loved even by someone who she hasn’t gotten to know. And somehow, perhaps his love through my proxy can transcend place and time to reach her.

As a young child, I do remember my paternal grandmother’s funeral, but only cognitively and without much sentiment. Tonight is my uncle’s memorial service and tomorrow is the funeral at the crematorium. He is the first death in the family that I’ll personally grief for.

Though it will be sad for a while, I will not despair because he didn’t. Though we couldn’t have more time with him than we wanted, he managed to say his last goodbyes and bid each of us farewell in the week leading up to his last breath.

Unlike my uncle, we might not know the day or hour of our last breath, so do live prayerfully, speak peaceably and love deeply. I know he did.


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