This morning I received an e-mail from my dad, updating me and my sister on my uncle’s failing condition. He is dying, slowly and inexorably, indirectly the result of wounds he received in Viet Nam some thirty years ago. Two weeks ago he underwent surgery from which he has generally failed to recover. Right now the doctors at the VA estimate he has 2-3 days to live.
So I’ve been going back and forth in my mind about what to do; I DREAD the thought of traveling again so soon with V, for an indeterminate length of time. She really only just settled back in to an easy contentment here at home, after six weeks of protracted transitions. My college-aged self would have grabbed my guitar and jumped on a Greyhound bus already, composing ditties about Uncle D. all the way to NY, but my 36yo self is not so unencumbered. I am responsible for the welfare of my daughter, and even though I am also a niece and cousin, at this point I think mother trumps those relationships. We will go for the memorial service, whenever that might be, but D. is sedated and on life support anyway and it is uncertain whether he will regain consciousness enough to say goodbye. And even if he does, I think his wife, sons, father, and sister are first in line. I’m pretty far back in line (even though he did tell me on our last visit that I’m his favorite niece…)…
So I’ve been processing this in my mind all afternoon, on the phone with my parents (who are staying with my aunt right now), texting with T., discussing with my MIL when I went to pick up V. this afternoon. Just as I was putting V. in the car to come home, I got a call from number I didn’t recognize, but answered without thinking.
My friend H. has taken his own life.
I am stunned. But not so terribly surprised. There was always something dark and sad behind the razor-sharp intellect and uber hipster coolness, some kind of pain that never fully surfaced but somehow infused even his gestures. In the same phone call I learned that he had married during the past year – so all at once I’m happy for him, and devastatingly sad.
Yeah, I didn’t know he had married – I wouldn’t say we were close, really, but the person who called said he always spoke of me with warmth and affection. When I was pregnant with V., he often schepped me back and forth to ob/gyn appointments when T. was out of town (we had a running joke that T. didn’t actually exist – when I showed him a photo on my cell phone he deadpanned, “yeah, you downloaded that off the internet,” without missing a beat, and so quietly I almost missed it). So I called him V.’s godfather.
I wish I had never deleted a single e-mail he sent me. I miss him.
What is that saying? “In the midst of life, we are in death” or something like that – our mortality surrounds us. Suicide haunts me. At one point in time, I delayed ttc because I was beset with the notion that any child I would have would be doomed to die that way. I believed that I would only bring more pain into the world by procreating. Yeah, kind of melodramatic, but it was how I felt at the time – like I lived under a dark cloud. But I think of those I know who have died young, and how could I regret their lives? How could I regret having known them?
We’ve been preparing, in many invisible ways, for my uncle’s passing for years now. The loss of H. took my breath away.