Doesn’t it suck when people die?
My uncle died more than a year ago. I don’t know the exact date, but I remember receiving my mom’s phone call when I was leaving my apartment to go to chorus practice at a church in London’s east side. I had joined an American group of singers who were going to perform for Thanksgiving service in St. Paul’s Cathedral.
When she called we talked just about everything but his death – she asked how everything was, I complained of my current situation: about leaving London, sad to the bone, lonely, confused as usual. Just about to hang up she said, “can I tell you something sad?”, “what’s going on?” “Julius died yesterday”.
I couldn’t say anything because I didn’t feel anything. He was gone and that was it.
Then, as if trying to recall some feeling, trying to prove to myself that I could cry and that I felt something for someone, I started thinking about the past and his life in my life: Uncle Julius cooking spaghetti for Sunday brunch, the black and white photos of his mom and brother (people he never talked about), images just sitting in a table, always untouched, facing the main entrance (once I moved them out of curiosity and he got really mad at me – probably one of the few times he got so upset about something I did). Then I though about his hammock, how he used to hang it from two hooks, one in each wall in the living room, and hang the hammock right there in the middle of the room, barely taking care of the coffee table and the expensive china, so that the baby girl (me!) could play on her own while the grown-ups rested.
He also had that tea set, British it was, always clean, dusted, impeccable in one side of the living room – I never asked where he got it from?, why it meant so much? Questions that are left silent, and answer that will always remain quiet.
It’s interesting that it has taken me a full year to come around and write about him.
We were close while I was a child, but my teenage years took me to places far away from him – although I always remembered his long and gentle hands, his way to tell stories, his smell of lavender cologne and his grey cotton sweaters.
I miss him. Besides my grandmother, he is the only person I’ve lost.
I know. I’ve been lucky; I’ve had very few deaths around and only these two have meant something.
My mom told me that he said goodbye a few weeks before he died. He asked her to call me and let me know; he asked her not to cry, to get a new dress for his funeral, to have a small dinner on his behalf and make sure that his daughter in law wouldn’t throw away his stuff: things that, although seemingly worthless, meant the world to him, God knows why.
In any case, he died. My mom took everything she could – the daughter in law is a bitch and she wouldn’t allow her keep Julius stuff. They organized a mass and a small dinner party. They had Italian food and red wine in his honor. Against all odds very few people attended the funeral – his closest friends are all so old that they barely leave home, and the young people are gone, like me.
As of today I am here, remembering, just as I remember every week, every month, about him and his smell, his words, his deep voice, his gentleness, his laughter, and as of this moment I miss him – like I always do.