My ex-wife's father and my uncle are both walking down the corridor with my uncle perhaps being a few steps ahead of my former father-in-law. My uncle entered hospice treatment today which will see me on a return trip to Colorado within the next month.
My uncle had been suffering from dementia for a number of years before last Friday when he decided to wander out of the house in the middle of the day without shoes or socks. He and my aunt have lived in the same house for as long as I can remember. The neighborhood is urban. Lots of concrete sidewalks. The heat has been sweltering. A neighbor discovered my uncle wandering and immediately called an ambulance. He suffered burns on his feet and began having seizures. As a result, he suffered a heart attack and never regained consciousness. The doctors say he'll never regain consciousness. His brain is showing minimal activity.
So, today, he returned home to a place he hasn't recognized for a very long time. He'll die in his home and I'll attend his funeral.
I'll most likely attend another funeral within the next year for my former father-in-law. Doctors discovered a large tumor in his intestines and later diagnosed him with colon cancer. The prognosis is undetermined at this point, but it doesn't look good. It'll be the first time I've set foot in Ohio in many years...
My life has been peppered with death, but lately it seems a bit more stark as if there is a message and the message hasn't been lost on me. I'm doing the best that I can now to consider the things and people that matter most and I'm confused. There are people who I consider part of my inner circle and I've been making efforts to connect with them more frequently lately.
I think about death more often than I used to. I can remember an acute defiance towards the idea of death in my 20s which, I suppose, is normal. Today, I don't trust people who say they don't think about death. Our lives are made up of trillions of moments and I find myself lately wishing that I could take in and remember each and every one. I certainly make an effort.
I exchanged some correspondence with one of my dear friends today. This is what he had to say:
"I still have several e-mails that we sent each other. I like to read them every now and then. It's like looking through a family album. Snap-shots of our lives. I recently went through them, and I was struck by a particular series of e-mails we sent each other. It was during the time you were going through your divorce and I was leading a trip in Mexico (Cuernavaca specifically) for the high-school where I was working. We both had so many questions about where we headed, what we were 'supposed' to do with our lives. Idealist? Maybe. Confused? Definitely. Righteous? Somewhat..."
And my response:
"I don't know that I have any insightful comment about the e-mails from before particularly if they were from around the time I was divorcing. I was an idiot at that time. I'm still an idiot now, but I'm somewhat conscious of my stupidity and try and keep the volume on that as low as possible, but, back then, it was turned up full blast. I've got definite ideas about the world, but I try as much as possible to live those ideas rather than proselytize which doesn't always work out, but I've gotten better about it, I think. I'm not sure which e-mails you're talking about, but I do seem to remember feeling and communicating as though I had learned so much from the experience of the divorce which was complete bullshit. The lessons didn't really come until years later..."
I don't know that any of what I have to say now will make any sense to me in 10 years. I'm doubtful. Death, in all its forms, seems to be what I've spent a good deal of my life pondering. These snapshots are all leading to something, right? I don't know that I'll ever really be able to appreciate life and the little snapshots of it until I appreciate death. I'm happy to say that I'm at peace with the idea, but not so sure I'm at peace with the reality of it.
My experience with others and their deaths is that they weren't ever really prepared or at peace with it until their final moments. I suppose my entire life is in preparation for those few seconds...