Death Number Two

My uncle passed away yesterday. Cancer.

In January a hospice worker said to me, “So your father has two sisters, and one brother-in-law, and all four of them are all terribly sick in hospitals at this very moment.” I nodded. I hadn’t really thought of it like that. With the exception of my uncle, they are all in their seventies.

Isn’t seventy supposed to be the new fifty these days? I thought, somewhat stupidly.

My dad had emergency open-heart surgery, followed by bladder surgery. Across the street at another hospital was his sister, who has some sort of complicated and deadly heart condition. I don’t ask too many questions because everyone gets very agitated about it. Then my dad’s brother-in-law was in an assisted living facility a few blocks away because he was dying of cancer. And then my dad’s other sister was my Aunt A, who was in hospice for cancer several states away.

Aunt A died on St. Patrick’s Day. My uncle died on Easter. Pretty poignant for a New York Irish Catholic family who started out in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

My dad looks a bit frail and seems to tire easily, but he’s recovered.

And that leaves my other aunt, in another serious medical situation.

Cancer and heart disease. I feel numb, nothing, but I’ll hold my children especially tight tonight and drive very slowly and cautiously for the unforeseeable future. I’ve written this before, but I’ll write it again: How can people float so easily through life for decades, only to be pummeled with every sort of emergency and tragedy all at the same time? My poor dad. How do the stars align themselves like this?

I guess it’s just one more mystery.

If I have figured out one little thing in the past five years, it’s that life doesn’t stop for these tragedies. I will not make it to this funeral. I start work tomorrow, and the funeral is five states away. So I shoulder on, get ready for work, cook my children dinner, and call a friend for support and a few laughs.

And this is life, pushing through the bad, to get to the good again. We can do it. It just takes faith and a whole lot of stamina.



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