Twelve years ago today, I lost someone I loved to cancer.
I had recently gotten reacquainted with my uncle and my aunt. I was living in Wisconsin at the time and they were living in Phoenix. I arrived for a visit and bonded instantly with my Dad’s brother. He was helpful in giving me advice about jobs and deciding towards what direction I wanted my life to move. He was supportive when I told him that I was considering a move to Phoenix. I have wonderful memories of him. We shared similar taste in movies, had meaningful discussions about work and family, and sampled frosty cold beers from local restaurants. I adored my uncle, aunt and their baby daughter. Then my uncle got sick.
I knew that he was getting cancer treatments although that was something that we typically didn’t discuss. When we exchanged emails, it was usually about current movies, TV shows or lighthearted topics. One day I got a great idea to send him a care package. I recorded TV shows that I thought he would enjoy watching, picked out a perfect card, and tried to gather small items that I remembered that he liked. Finally, my package was ready. I knew even if he wasn’t feeling well, opening it up would bring a smile to his face. I was proud. It would be the perfect thing to cheer him up.
I called my aunt to check on how he was feeling that day. I am not sure if she even said hello when she picked up the phone. When I said hi, she didn’t answer me. I said hi again and told her who I was. I told her that I was calling to see how my uncle was feeling. She barely whispered in the phone, “He died today.” When you hear devastating news, it doesn’t seem real. I can’t remember what either of us said or how the conversation ended but in the moment that I heard her words, I felt like I had just been punched in the stomach. My knees seemed to give out and I recall dropping to the floor in slow motion.
The next days were like a horrible foggy dream. When I wasn’t crying, I was sleeping. It was a day or two before I had no more tears. The next day, I woke up and went to work because even when terrible things happen, the world keeps moving.