As we age, people we’ve known, people we’ve laughed out loud with, people we loved with all our hearts, and people we failed to say I’m sorry to–they will leave us. Life gets crowded with its typical stuff, and there are times when we get lazy, and times when climbing various social and career ladders begin to stipulate how we advocate our time. Thus, drifting apart is often quiet and goes unnoticed.
So we lose touch sometimes. Not necessarily because we’ve lost common ground but because time is limited and life is complicated. With that, even the deepest of relationships can get sidelined and we lose people, and long before their deaths. We drift in directions that make maintaining a genuine connection too demanding. Truly, not much can be done when life’s flow directs our path before we have time to see that it has led us into a deep labyrinth.
This holiday season I experienced a few “this is a first,” in the midst of discovering that an uncle passed over Thanksgiving. Yet again, I am reminded of this time in my life when I will, more often than not, begin to experience losing people. And the melancholy thing about this is that in most cases I will not have had the chance to say good-bye.
I’d not seen my uncle in several years. He and my mom’s sister were no longer together, but I couldn’t imagine him not being one of my uncles. We were more visible in each other’s lives from an early age until perhaps my early thirties. Through holidays and various milestone celebrations we’d sit and chat. Although I vaguely recall the experience, my sister and I were flower girls at the wedding of my aunt and late uncle.
An intelligent man, my uncle had a mind that was as sharp as a brand new razor blade. His depth of reasoning was something to awe. Our debates began as early as my 10th grade year of high school. We’d never give in to each other’s side of an oftentimes engaging disagreement. Frankly, he was much deeper than me.
I really liked my uncle. It would be disingenuous to say that I’ll miss him since we rarely saw each other in recent times. Still, knowing that he will no longer be a part of our family dynamic is something my senses will, from time to time, react to.
Because I have lost others this year, I know this to be true: from time to time, some odd memory will pop into my head about something absurd my uncle said or did. Or I will reflect on words of wisdom he’d offered years ago, and come to see, with hindsight, that the nuances of his conversations pierced into my psyche in ways each of us, with our superficial ways, rarely pays attention to. My uncle played some part in how I process my thoughts. I can now see that I’d been mentally elevated by some blunt comment he’d made decades ago.
When people we’ve known are lost to us–however quiet or intense that loss is–we take a piece of their spirit with us. Because we’ve not honored it doesn’t mean we don’t retain a fragment of their essence. Each human being that dwells in our space and shares an interlude with us will leave something behind. Yet on a human level, we aren’t aware of how precisely something about us has changed.