This weekend is strange. It is a rare occurrence in which I was facing two very distinct parts of the life cycle: birth and death.
My husband’s uncle had been ill for a long time. It had come to the point where doctors had advised that there was nothing further that could be done, and the only medications that they would prescribe were those for pain management. He was set to go in hospice care, with the warning that his time here was short. He decided to stay at home and spend his last weeks with his family.
My husband had been trying to visit him for some time. However, it felt like family was insistent that he wait until the weekend to see him. There were plans for Uncle to go on short trips, see family members, etc. He seemed so busy, so they suggested the weekend would be the best. After all, overseas family members would be coming to town to see him.
Yesterday, we arrived early at my in-laws home, suggesting that we go a little earlier than they had planned to see Uncle. There were various reasons why we should just wait, and that 3pm was the time we were planning to go. I had to go run a quick errand, and had decided to do that and be back just before 3pm. After I was done, I decided to call my in-laws on my way back to their home. It was then we were told that Uncle had passed just a few minutes before.
Naturally, we were shocked. Immediately, I felt guilt, and shortly after, regret. Why didn’t we just go and see him? Why didn’t I just plan ahead on that errand? Why did we wait to see him? Why…why…why…..? Tears flowed down my face, and I began to recall those same last moments when I witness my father passing. I thought of Uncle’s family, and what they must be feeling at this very time. I thought of my husband’s family, and what they must have felt about just missing the last minutes of their brother’s life.
Once we arrived, I learned that Uncle’s passing was, despite his condition, sudden. He was sick, but he had planned to go to the airport to greet his family who were coming in from overseas. The trip was going to be long, but he had felt strong enough to do it. He was sitting up in the morning, had asked for his laptop, and had seemed fine. He felt tired, went to sleep, and then passed. Just like that, he had passed.
The reality of his passing was difficult. It’s never easy to accept. When we arrived at his home, I looked at his body, and saw the obvious signs of long-term illness. I saw the pain that his children were experiencing. The heartbreak his wife felt as she held his hand and touched his forehead. We knew his time was coming, but when faced with it so directly, and so suddenly, it was still painful and shocking. We were faced with the harsh reality of life – the uncertainly, the pain, and solemn truth that eventually, things come to an end. We sat around and it became an impromptu wake for immediate family. When we left, it was still sad, but somehow, the mood was slightly uplifted by the gathering. They began to celebrate Uncle for who he was, and it was then the focus was not on the loss, but on the strength of the family and the life that Uncle lived.
Today, I celebrate the other end of the spectrum. I am attending a baby shower for a friend who had for so long wanted a family. Today, we celebrate the pending arrival of her second child. To switch from one end of the life spectrum to another in a single weekend feels a little strange. It’s reminder than life continues over and over again. As I switch from remembering life lived to welcoming one that is beginning, I think about the very importance of celebrating. For my friend, she is gaining a new life in her household. It’s amazing when you think about it. A few years ago, she had no idea that a little girl would be joining their family. In a few short months, her home will be filled once again with the unmistakable and sounds of new life.
As a new parent, it’s remarkable to think how fast things change with the birth of a new child. Watching a young life unfold day after day is incredible. You witness the growth and miracle of what life is. The speed at which things change, and how what it is to bring something new into the world. You witness how someone so small and seemingly helpless, grow into a vivacious person. You see and help someone eventually grow into their own personality.
It’s strange to think that I am seeing the effects of the end and the beginning of life. It’s these moments I remind myself of the importance of celebrating life for what it is. Hardships, pain and joy are all a part of it. Life is being able to experience and learn from it all.