My Uncle Bob died this week. So did a cousin of mine, and this morning my cousin Beverly’s husband died unexpectedly of a heart attack.
Three deaths. One family. One week.
Uncle Bob’s name was Robert Hair. He was a full blooded Cherokee Indian. When he was little his great-grandma told him stories about the trail of tears. She could tell him the stories because she remembered it. For the first years of his life (until he was 6, 7, 8??) he lived on a reservation and only knew how to speak Cherokee. When he married my dad’s sister Joyce, I was young. He was a policeman where we lived in California, in a small county, in a very small town, in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
The first party I went to in high school went something like this. Me, thinking I’m a badass at 16 years old holding a wine cooler (Ha! A wine cooler! What a nerd), talking to a cute guy in the kitchen of… well, to be honest I don’t even remember whose house it was. All of a sudden someone starts pounding in the door. Everyone in the party house froze. “Open up kids. This is the police!” Yep. You guessed it. I immediately recognized my Uncle Bob’s voice. Classic. We laughed hard about it years later.
He wasn’t perfect. He could be quite mean. He and my aunt had some tough battles and some wicked fights.
Fifteen or twenty years ago he had a heart attack. He died for a matter of minutes before they revived him. When he came back to life, he told everyone who would listen that he’d seen Jesus when he died. Jesus had told him that he was the way. From that day on Bob couldn’t shut up about Jesus. Some people in my family got really annoyed with him. It was awesome and never deterred him. The joy of Jesus was like fire in him.
I didn’t know my distant cousin very well. He was actually my Grandaddy’s first cousin. I saw him at family reunions. What I do know is that he had a family who loved him and that at 70 years old he finally got the grand kids he’d been looking forward to for years.
Bev’s husband woke up at 1:00 in the morning last night with pain in his chest. He didn’t want to wake Bev, so he sat up all night until 8:00 this morning when she found him outside on the porch swing. She rushed him to the hospital. He passed away about two hours later. They loved each other a lot and tonight her grief must be at its peak, and that fact hurts my heart so deeply for her.
So death has visited us too many times these past few days. Yet, life still flows on for us. I know that the coming week will hold my huge and wonderful family coming together and being there for each other like we always are. There will be lots of tears and a lot of hugs and laughter.
My cousin Pam and I talked on the phone tonight. We cried and laughed with each other. She has yet another cousin on her father’s side of the family that I am not related to, who is in hospice. His name is Ted and hospice told the family today that it will most likely be tonight or tomorrow for him.
She told me a story about her 97 year old grandma who once said to her, “We’ve got it all backwards. We should mourn for someone when they’re born and rejoice for them when they die.”
Maybe she’s right. We mourn when we lose people because we miss them. But we also celebrate because they are free.
I just wanted to remember them here tonight to you, whoever you are, wherever you are, because I loved them, I love those who they’ve left behind, and because they mattered.
They are now seeing fully what we only know in part. what we blog about and talk about and experience pieces and moments of… They know. It’s fantastic and it gives my heart a lot of peace.