Monday, August 22, 2011

Reflecting on Life and Death

I suppose it is an occupational hazard for genealogists to reflect on life and death more frequently than other people.  My uncle passed away on Saturday and that has me thinking about it more than usual.

I can't help but notice that when someone dies the first thing I reflect on is how well I knew the person. Usually there is a tinge of regret where I tell myself that I wish I had known the person better. The reality of life is that we know people to varying degrees based on how much time we spend being with them or speaking to them. 

I read my uncle's obituary this morning and found comfort in the fact that very little information in it was new to me.  I was more pleased that I knew what he loved most and what he was proud of such as his pro bono legal work and acting in amateur theatre.

This past July I had the chance to spend some time alone with my uncle.  The whole extended family had gathered for a reunion and everyone was dispersing to the beach or fishing.  I begged off saying I would stay behind with my uncle.  My aunt, his wife, gently told me he didn't need watching over.  But honestly I was gratefully using him as an excuse to give this overly busy Mom some quiet time.

During our brief hour or two together we got the chance to talk and just be in each others company.  My uncle had a distinctive deep voice which I always found very comforting. He was a man of much fewer words than my own enthusiastically verbose father.  Yet when he spoke, a wisdom and gentleness poured from his carefully chosen words.  Even pauses or silence seemed like a natural part of the conversation.

I'm so glad I had those few hours with my uncle.  It's something that I can call all my own. Somehow it makes up for, just a little, the fact that I wished I had spent more time with him when I had had the chance.

I like the idea of celebrating a life.  I think that when people get together at wakes or funerals that there should be joy in remembering the wonderful ways that the individual lived and touched our lives.

At the same time, as I get older, a little sadness seeps in.  I can't help thinking that I will miss hearing that person's voice or seeing them at the usual time each year.

I guess what death is teaching me is to live life to the fullest, express your love and joy, and hug your loved ones every day.  And when someone passes, it's ok to let the tears fall because it means you loved them.