I went to my uncle’s funeral last night.
Unlike the last two funerals I have been to, for the same family, in the past year and a half, last night felt like closure and peace. My uncle was ready.
It’s not that he wasn’t a fighter, it’s that his entire life had been so deep in the fight. Married to a chronically, horribly sick woman, for years he slept beside her as she hurt without ceasing, he carried her wheelchair in and out of cars, he brought her coffee, helped raise her three sons. A little over a year ago, he stood by helplessly as she finally let go, wishing he could go too.
And in his final year, while he fought through the loneliness of a life left empty, he watched his grandson laid to rest long, long before his time.
In this life, he had poured everything out, and he laid in that casket with what, I swear, resembled a smile.
He was ready.
And, because it’s what we all do at funerals, I thought of my own life and how one day, this will be me, this will be all of us.
And it struck me, like a punch in the gut. I am so not ready.
I laid awake last night and tried to find comfort in knowing that being in my early thirties is not like being in my early seventies (as my uncle was). There is still time to do, whatever it is that I am supposed to be doing.
And, of course, I know that whenever my race has been run, I won’t be puttering around in heaven thinking about all of the odds and ends that I let go untended. Still, it’s hard, while here, to imagine actually letting go at all.
It’s what we do, as mothers, or even just as women. We hold on. We have drawers filled with papers that our babies have scribbled on, some dated with names, others just waiting to be sorted out and eventually thrown away. We spend nights recounting conversations with our spouses, with our children, our friends, wondering if what we have said or done has in any way, caused anyone, distress. We worry about the lights left on, the cat left out, the clothes in the wash that we forgot to move to the drier. Every care, the little and the large, we hold them all.
Or, at least, I do.
I wonder some nights what more I ought to be doing. If, as I am standing behind a woman at the grocery store whose debit card won’t go through, I should have offered to cover her bill (before she managed to finally get a hold of her bank and get it processed)? Should I have found a way to stop on my hurried drive home to meet the bus, to help the man with the cardboard sign at the intersection right beside the grocery store. Will work for food.
What little things could I be doing, to be making more of an impact. Because the little things, they matter. And one day, when I am finally as my uncle was last night, I want to be smiling peacefully too. I want to be ready, knowing that I ran my hardest, did my best and poured it all out, so that whatever love was spilled will continue to spread.
Kind of like this wake left by my uncle. He wasn’t perfect, he wasn’t a Guideposts magazine article waiting to be written. But he did everything that he knew he was supposed to do. And the result? In his peaceful smile, he has inspired me, this morning, over coffee, with a houseful of kids and a busy day ahead, to do all that I can to be ready myself.
Because early seventies isn’t a guarantee.