My heart is broken. My dear Uncle Barry, who I have blogged about many times, passed away yesterday in the early morning. Uncle Barry was more than an uncle, he was my most constant father figure. He cared for me in so many ways when I was young and taught me many lessons in the past few years as we became even closer. He vacationed with us, spent most holidays with us, and was in all ways an important part of our nuclear family. His absence will be felt by our family in a way that would surprise even him, although he knew we loved him. Love is action, and we showed him our love, and he us.
It is absolutely true that our hearts can physically and literally hurt. It is after 3pm now, and I have done nothing but cry and talk to loved ones since hearing the news. Given that, those of you reading this who wonder how I could write at this time are not writers. Writers will understand.
I have many thoughts and emotions, and need to write some of them now, some later. I do not want to waste or forget the lessons I learned with Uncle Barry.
Uncle Barry was 90 years young, and so wanted to live. He was diagnosed with bladder cancer last Fall, had two surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation. Since early June, his health has been failing, but when I left him in rehab on Monday, I thought he was recovering, and would be there when I returned later this week. I spoke with him yesterday a couple of times, and he was fine, at least he sounded fine. He was still “taking care of business,” including wanting me to cancel a doctor’s appointment he knew he had so he wouldn’t be a “no show.” When he talked to me about that he said, “I know when I tell you to do something it will get done.” I took that as a compliment. Those were (I think, I am still foggy) the last words he said to me, other than “I love you, too” in response to my, “I love you.” Verbalizing love wasn’t easy for Uncle Barry, but he got better at it the more I told him I loved him!
Lessons from Uncle Barry to the rest of us:
1. Forgive. Don’t judge, don’t hold grudges, and move on. The best example I have of this is Uncle B’s relationship with his ex-wife, Alexis. They were married for (I think) about 5 years and have been divorced for about that amount of time. They remained friends. Uncle B’s last decision and action (again, I think) was on Monday, which was to have me order food, which he paid for, to be sent to Alexis’s family, to be delivered Thursday. Alexis’s youngest sister passed away on Sunday from pancreatic cancer, and Uncle B wanted to show his caring. His gift of food will arrive after his death. I will always remember Uncle B was thinking of others and doing for others until he passed.
2. Take care of your own business as long as you can. Uncle B planned and paid for his cremation several years ago. He told us he did not want anyone else to have to worry about that. We also know he wanted to control that! He was tight with his hard-earned money and did not see any reason to waste any on more elaborate arrangements. We will, of course, honor his wishes, certainly those he put in writing.
3. Pay your bills, avoid paying interest, and have enough financial resources to meet your needs. Uncle B lived a simple life, but he could afford what he had and even left some behind. I paid his bills recently and dealt with his bank, making sure that his financial responsibilities were met, since he was not physically able to do that for himself. He no longer has to worry about his credit, nor do his creditors have to worry about their payments.
4. Stay positive as long as you can and be grateful for what you have. Uncle B never complained. He told jokes (some not so clean!) and was grateful for what he had and his life. He told me that he never thought he would live so long, that he wanted to live until 2000, the turn of the century, and that any years longer were a bonus. Even so, he so wanted to live. That is why he went through two cancer surgeries and six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation. But I think he was at peace the past few days. He never complained. He took life as it came, doing his part to live as long as he could.
This list is not intended to be all inclusive. It is a beginning. There will be more as time goes by.
Hold tight to your loved ones. Tell them you love them. Forgive. Reach out and help others, showing love in action as well as words. Know that life is short, regardless of how long we live. Make the best of the life and the time you are given.
Do these things. If not for yourself, in memory of Uncle Barry.