Archive for the ‘death’ Tag

R.I.P UNCLE B   4 comments

 gold-cloud1

Some people say that psychic connections between people are the stuff of foolish talk; some kind of ethereal sensibility tossed down through the ages from folklore and near-death experiences that became the stuff of legend.

For me, its pretty real.

I talk to my parents pretty often, but when I’m busy and time lags, there are the occasional spans of weeks that may pass without a real conversation. Two days ago, I felt a pressing need to speak to my father. I felt that something was wrong, and that I needed to chat with him. Something was tickling my subconscious, even though I don’t necessarily sit and giggle on the phone with my father for any length of time.

Tonight, after coming home from a long day, I noticed a funky smell wafting through the air. An annoying rodent apparently, had met its demise in my roommate’s room. I spoke to her about the logistics of removing the rodent (she was in the bathroom preparing to head out) and then my phone buzzed. It was home calling.

I flipped open the phone and said hello, immediately forgetting the smelly situation. It was my mother, and her voice sounded calmer, and little more subdued than normal. I usually receive a chirpy, “Hey Marcus, how are yah!” in a tone of voice that could fit any female motivational speaker.

I flopped on the bed in my room and we spoke about the simple things, the day and so forth. She told me that she received my message (I had left a message on the phone saying I wanted to talk to my father). Then, she said.

“Did I tell you that uncle B had gone into the hospital recently?’ she asked

“Hospital?” No, I replied.

“Well, he went into the hospital last week… and he didn’t make it.” She said.

“Wow.” I replied. “Wow.”

Whenever I think of my Uncle B, affectionately called “Uncle Boysie”, my first memory of him is being described as a world traveler. As a child I gleefully touched the large scars on his arms, each one marking a different vaccination from a different part of the world. “Do you know who Atlas is?” Was one of the first questions he asked me. “Atlas, “ he said, “Is the man who holds the world on his shoulders.” He had said with a laugh.

He had a short stature, but a strong resounding voice, the kind with an English inflection from thirty-odd years of living in England, which still had the gentlest touch of his original Jamaican accent. Like my Grandfather, who passed away a few years ago, he is one of the few people I have never seen angry, never seen curse. There was always a smile on his face, and candies in his suitcase for myself and my sisters when he would arrive from England.

In my last conversation with him, he congratulated me on graduating from University, and wished me all the best in my future endeavours in life.

When my mother said the words, “he didn’t make it”, I didn’t feel a crunching sadness envelope me. Like my Grandfather, he was a man that had lived. I have endless memories of his laughter, traveling to the country with him as he told stories from his youth and watching his eyes gleam with pride as he saw how well his family was doing.

As 2008 turned into 2009, I felt as if I wouldn’t have the need to write much anymore. I had unofficially retired this blog. There are many things deep inside me that I have struggled with to overcome. Some I can control, and some I cannot. But I have an intimate relationship with death, and I appreciate what it means. When people around you die, you learn to treasure the moments you had. You treasure the laughs, the smiles and their idosycrasies. You learn to treasure something about yourself as well.

You treasure the things and people you’ve lost, and you try to regret less and do more. Today, I’m feeling that way again.

As he grew older, my Uncle B traveled less because of illness. But whenever he was healthy enough, he would come straight to Jamaica, and spend a few days at my house before departing to the country, where my Aunt built a house in the area she grew up.

I feel it for my father, because he was one of his closest and most beloved friends. January seems to ring with a particular tone of death for him, as his parents and now uncle, have all died in the month of January.

Whatever echo from the cosmos sent a signal to me while I was going about my day in Washington DC, reminds me of that deep intrinsic connection we share. I felt as if my father needed something, some words, a touch, a conversation. At the time, I didn’t know why, but when my mother told me the news, I understood it. My inkling of a feeling, the sense that my father might not be completely happy, had weight attached to it. Many times these things might happen to us and we ignore them as coincidences or trite circumstances. We feel that our lives are completely governed by the steps we take, that we are completely individual.

But are we?

I will always remember your laughs Uncle B, and the time you grabbed a machete and chased a large rat out of the guestroom. I will savor the memory of the taste of those English candies, and I will make sure to kiss your picture the next time I’m in Jamaica. I know you lived a full and prosperous life, with your family and friends always behind you. I hope that I too, can live a life like that. With more to love than to regret, with more to look forward to than to fear.

Safe travels Uncle B, wherever you are.

 

 

Losing Christmas….   2 comments

rainydaycentralpark

Its raining outside, and somewhere my family is looking up at sunny skies, sharing smiles and eating a delicious breakfast. I won’t be with them anytime soon.

I’ve lost Chrstmas.

I don’t know how much people know about the stilted lives of those who aren’t American living in the U.S, but let’s just say, its not always pleasant. Details of why I’m forced to remain in lovely ol’ DC for the rest of the year are irrelevant.
I’ve lost this time with my family and a few friends, but I feel I lost Christmas a long time ago.
Tomorrow will be the fourth year anniversary of my Grandfather’s death. I can’t even believe it, it still feels like yesterday, like the way I feel when I forget my keys as I’m stepping out of the house, or the way I feel when I have something to do that’s on the tip of my tongue. It feels close, as if it’s a breath away, an arm’s length. But its not. Four whole years have passed since I visited the quiet hospital room with its green, ugly walls, where everyday I would greet my Grandfather with a smile and hug, feeling his bones press into my skin because he had lost so much weight. The staff loved him—he’s just that kind of guy—and I followed suit. Even though he was at the last stages of being eaten by cancer, he never showed much pain or anger. He would always entertain conversation if he could manage it. He was always laughing with the staff and telling me: “Mr. Marcus, good to see you.”
I only had two weeks to spend with him, and there were nights that I was falling asleep after spending the day there with him, and he would tell me to go out and have fun.
It’s hard watching someone with one lung breathe. The day before he died, one of his lungs collapsed, and watching him was heartbreaking. When you have one lung you are forced to exert all your efforts into breathing. Sucking in life-giving air is no longer something you do effortlessly awake or asleep, it becomes frightfully real. I watched him heave awkwardly for hours on end, while nurses stood by, their faces dark brown masks of death.
On the day he died, we were all standing around him, most of his immediate family, and we were there to see him go. His last words with his arms outstretched were “Sing for me”. Sing we did. His pastor was there, singing a quiet hymnal, and we stood by, our eyes filled with tears and our hearts in our mouths. As soon as he said those words, he wilted, and we knew he was gone. My mother grabbed us and rushed us beside him. “Tell him goodbye.” She said between breaths.

Tell him goodbye.

That was four years ago, and tomorrow a gathering will take place at my Grandmother’s house in Jamaica. People will play dominoes, eat Christmas cake and drink Sorrel (a yearly drink we brew) and talk about good times. I will be here in DC, watching rain pour from the sky like tears from my eyes four years ago.

In a way, I lost Christmas then.

A year later, I was in love. The worst kind you can be in, the unrequited kind. That Christmas I was unable to sleep, and I lost my appetite. The days went by in a blur, and all I could think of was a person I couldn’t see or touch. I couldn’t hear her voice or smell her hair, but at least, I had my family. I had the kind, consoling words of my Grandmother. She with her powerful hugs and sweet kisses. She calls me Marks. Then there were the outings with my father, the endless stream of Heinekens and staying out at bars until the sky becomes a purplish blue. I get to hear my father say, “This is my big son. Marcus.” To numerous people I’ve never met. Then there are the idle conversations with my sisters; joking about esoteric things you learn over twenty odd years of living with each other. The jokes that only you will ever find funny, the ones that pop up from the recesses of your memory in the same way your name does when a stranger asks you what your name is. You immediately go back in time, and you are ten and she is five, and you are both sitting with skinny arms and legs, calmly watching a Disney movie on the brand new VCR. I didn’t have love, but at least I had that. I had those memories around me to stymie the effects of my loss.

The next year, I lost a friend.

This also changed Christmas. No longer would I run to his house and laugh and recap the year, or traipse about Kingston, laughing at how well we were dressed, or more esoteric jokes. No more would we reminisce about riding through the hills during the summertime on our bikes; no more playing video games and crashing on couches. These memories were gone, wilted away like the moment my Grandfather left this Earth. We might think life is mundane and often empty; that the little things around us are the things we dislike the most. The little things family and friends might say to annoy us, the meals we used to hate, the little trips we didn’t like taking. But when those are gone, we are left with nothing but silence, a cavernous raging silence that we can’t escape. It stares at us from the heavens, drowning us in its malevolent laughter.

Treasure the moments.

A year after this one, I made sure to make Christmas what it should be. I relished the moment, hungrily went to all the parties, I went to all the dinners and I laughed at all the jokes. Losing love, family and friends makes you do that. It turns you into a leech for good emotion. Dammit, if I have three weeks out of a sad year to feel good, I will use them like an addict’s last hit of coke before rehab.
Today, that’s changed.

There is no love twittering about in my heart, no painful memories of someone nearby. There is no friend to call and laugh about esoteric jokes. There is no family nearby to hug and giggle with, no sisters around to laugh about old Disney movies and catfights when we were kids. All I have is the rain around me, the humming of my space heater to keep me company, and my thoughts.
It is said that we die alone, that when we exit this Earth, we do so the same way we came. I think this is true, but I also think we live alone. We may occasionally see people and go to places were others dwell, but in our minds we are forever by ourselves. We never completely open up to those around us, and our reality is uniquely our own. Time might pass and we might love and lose it, get married or have children, but in some way, people never truly know us. We spend most of our lives being trained not to tell people about ourselves, and then worry as we get older and experience states of undesirable disconnect. Thus, if we die alone, and we live alone, is dying like living? Are they one and the same?
I don’t know. But as I head out into another rainy evening and the wet drops soften my hair, mix with the salt on my skin and burn my eyes, I might have my answer.

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