Life goes on, whether we like it or not
I write this column in a bit of a daze. The summer is finally coming to a close. The cold fog is rolling in onto the mountains and the fresh green Aspen leaves are starting to turn beautiful shades of orange, reminding us that the only thing constant in life is change.
There are many stories from the summer months worth sharing. I laughed a great deal and spent many days adventuring. I saw positive changes in my work and developed a few wonderful friendships. But I would say the most vital occurrence of this summer, the one that I will remember for a lifetime, happened a week and a half ago. I received a call from my mother early in the morning to learn that my uncle had passed away unexpectedly.
At moments like these, it feels like everything in the world stops. I took in the news, asking the traditional questions: How? When? Are you sure? And lastly, and probably least likely to ever receive an answer: Why? Why did this have to happen now? Why did this have to happen to him? Why did this have to happen to my aunt? To his siblings? To all of us?
In the past five years, my family has lost a lot of its members and most in unexpected situations. It feels like it’s due time I knew how to handle loss or could at least cope slightly better with it, but I find that’s not the case. I’m quite certain it never gets easier to lose a loved one, no matter how well we think we know how to grieve.
At moments like these, it feels like the world stops. But it really doesn’t. Life goes on, and that truth is simultaneously the most horrifying concept and the most comforting. As I received the news about my uncle, the birds continued to chirp outside, the sun once again rose above the mountains, the trucks still came by to pick up trash and recycling, and the news updates kept popping up on my cellphone. Life continues, my uncle just isn’t in it anymore.
There are a million wonderful things to say about my uncle. At the funeral, friends and family talked about his love for life, his sense of humor, his ingenuity in his work and his care for others. After the funeral, we laughed about and tried to remember the good times, and there were many. And, at certain moments, I think we all had to remind ourselves that he was no longer around, that he wouldn’t be walking through the door and joining us at any moment. A spirit as large as his is not an easy one to put to rest.
One of the comforts that I often find in grief is that we’re all in it together. Maybe not at the same time or in the same way, but we all know what it feels like to lose someone. When I get news of a loved one dying, the first thing I want to do is be with my family. Those are the people that help me get through the shock and the loss. They are my pack, the ones who make me feel protected, even when life feels, and is, wholly uncertain.
At moments like these, it feels like the world stops. And it does, for the one who has passed away. But grief is for the living. For us, the world does not stop. And since we’re all still here, the best we can do is love one another, treat each other with kindness and patience and work to keep those who have passed fondly and happily situated in our memories. That’s where their big personalities can live on. I’m quite certain that’s how my uncle would like to be remembered, over nostalgic banter, profound smiles, heaps of ebullient laughter and maybe a cocktail or two.
Cheers, and thank you for all of the memories.
Barbara Platts will miss her uncle Art Cunningham very much. However, she looks forward to recalling all of the wonderful stories. Reach her at email@example.com or on Twitter @BarbaraPlatts.
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Last Thursday, locals marked the Thanksgiving holiday with various traditions such as running in a socially distanced race to cutting down a Christmas tree in the forest to small dinners at home with family.