In December 2011, our family said goodbye to Uncle Dave, just like we did to Mom twenty years earlier. And it was just as sudden and sad and hard. A little over a year earlier, we had said goodbye to Uncle Rick and this new loss reminded us of our certainty that it never gets easier for those we love to leave us.
Uncle Dave could be just as rough-and-tumble as his brothers when he wanted, but he was kind too, and that kindness always won out. On the day of the memorial service, there was a sea of people gathered to honor him. There were so many people, in fact, that more chairs had to be added in the back of the chapel. Our extended family sat together in the front, surrounded by those who also knew and loved my uncle. In that crowded room, we listened to person after person share about the man they knew and the role he played in their lives. We were all becoming witnesses to the kind of legacy that one man could leave behind.
To me, he was Uncle Dave. He was the man who had helped our family articulate the goodbyes we could only say in tears. When Mom died, he did his best to comfort us despite his own grief, just as he had done when Grandpa passed and just as he would do when we lost Grandma and Uncle Rick too. He felt like a rock—steady, strong, and sure. You could bet on it. That’s just the kind of man he was and that’s how I’ll remember him.
When we left the church, I rode in the procession with my cousin, Ricky—Uncle Rick’s oldest. We hadn’t talked nearly enough in the past year, but here we were, reunited again by loss. As he drove to the cemetery, we caught up on each other’s lives, talked about our jobs, decisions, his girlfriend, God, and how much we looked up to Uncle Dave, even as kids. It was comforting to be there with Ricky, sharing in a grief that we both understood.
He told me that he and his sister had finally settled on selling the house their dad had left to them. That house had become a character in its own right. My mother and her brothers grew up there and I spent much of my childhood there. The places you grow up in become a part of you. To let them go means admitting that that part of your story is written and you can’t go back to it.
In the Spring of 2012, I left the place I was born and raised because I knew I couldn’t hold onto it and I knew it couldn’t hold me anymore. It was the only home I’d ever known, but I decided to make a new home with Ryan in New York City. We said our goodbyes to family and friends, packed everything we owned into a 16 foot moving truck, and drove through the night to the place where our story would continue.
We’ve been here for a little over a month and today is Mother’s Day. On this day for the last twenty years, I would make the drive out to the cemetery with my dad, and as I got older, by myself. Each time felt like a pilgrimage; it became a cathartic ritual to go back to Mom’s grave year after year. I can’t do that today because I’m hundreds of miles away—from family, from familiar places, and from the markers of my past.
Since we’ve been here, today is the most sobering reminder that I can’t go back—because this is my home now. With that is the realization that I can’t hold onto the places I’ve lived, but they live on in me and continue to shape the person I’m becoming.
Today I’m remembering the people I’ve loved that have left too soon: Mom, Grandpa, Grandma, Uncle Rick, Uncle Dave, and others. But I’m also celebrating the people I still have in my life. I’m grateful for the people who loved and continue to love me enough to say goodbye and let me go to New York City so that I can continue to grow and become the woman I’m trying to become.
I’m quite nostalgic today and am thinking about family, friends, and others who have ever experienced loss, which includes most of us. I can’t shake the feeling that although all of this is fleeting, there is a purpose that compels us to make the most of our time here.
We’ve come a long way to get here, heads high
and feet to the ground, we travel lightly because
we know that from the moment we’re born,
we’re all just homeward bound.
Our heavy steps beat the path between what we
hoped and how it is, but we hold on to this,
the smiles we wear, the lines around our eyes
that grow over the years,
the words we haven’t spoken,
the stories we’ve yet to hear,
they urge us on.
We know we can’t reprimand our hearts into
behaving no matter how hard we try, so
we set out to walk this promise down to the
last mile, all other lovers aside.
What we feel is what we know and all we know
is that we can’t go to work every day from 9 to 5
without feeling less and less alive, we can’t
dull our senses anymore or we’re gonna die.
It’s the truth, you know.
Our eyes plead with each other to drink from the
wine we’ve poured in our cups, to lift up our
heads to the sky and say this journey isn’t safe
but such is life, because from the moment we’re
born, we’re aching for more while knowing it’s
never gonna be enough.
There’s something sacred that can’t be touched
here, the moment when love transcends all fear,
the things we want so much to hold after they’re
gone, the people we’ve known and lost, and the
sense that in the end, it will all make sense even
if we cannot comprehend.
So we hold tight, sighing as the night breathes
deep around us, and we trust that the rest is yet
to come because we’re not done, no, we’re not
through, let’s make it count from this moment
‘til our time runs out.
Because in the end, we’re all homeward bound.