It’s hard to begin the explain the roller coaster that life strapped me into without warning.
This summer has been one of the best, most productive summers I’ve had since I can remember. Many milestones were achieved, so I had so many reasons to celebrate. I got my license. I became more independent. I was selected for an amazing job opportunity and have been preparing for it to begin in September. My boyfriend and I had our 3 year anniversary. I’ve been traveling a lot and getting to be more adventurous (I want to go for round 3 of whitewater rafting!).
In the meantime, a lot of awful things were happening. My boyfriend has been out of state for most of the summer and his stay has been much longer than both of us were prepared for. Then I was told that one of my aunts and one of my uncles (they’re married) are both severely ill and I was blindsided by the bad news.
My aunt and uncle (they’re technically my great aunt and great uncle, but my family is super close) have always been like grandparents to me (they’re my grandma’s brother and sister-in-law). I used to spend a lot of time over their house having sleepovers with my cousins when we were young andI live 5 minutes away from them, but since life has been so hectic, I haven’t made visiting them a priority. In June I got to spend a lot of time with them at one of my cousin’s grad party and then a family party at my grandma’s the next day, which was great as always.
When I saw my uncle at the two parties, he didn’t look well and I had a hunch his health was worse that what he had been telling people. That man has endured so much regarding his health. My great-grandma died from heart failure. A few years after my grandma nearly had the same fate as her mother, my uncle too nearly died from congestive heart failure (gotta love genetics). His condition required more in-depth surgeries and treatments, but he made it through only to end up with prostate cancer. After more treatments, he survived and was diagnosed with melanoma on his face. The cancer was removed, but not before it metastasized (spread) to his back/spine.
My aunt also had a history of health scares. She survived breast cancer and later sever issues that affected her reproductive organs. About the same time that my uncle was diagnosed with melanoma, my aunt learned she had a large brain tumor that had to be removed despite being benign (noncancerous) because of it’s fast growth and location in her brain. She will be getting surgery this month after she and my uncle come back from vacation.
My uncle is not undergoing surgery since his tumor is so deep in his spine. At this point, I think he might be stopping all treatments and I am forced to deal with the fact that I am probably losing a family member in the near future, something I am not remotely prepared for. I mean, no one is even prepared to mourn the loss of a family member and I know that I am lucky to be able to (hopefully) spend some time with him before his time comes. Still, I’m at a loss.
I’ve been to many funerals in my almost 24 years, but only one has been a relative, my (great) uncle who my family and I lost to suicide when I was young. The feeling of his loss permeates through every happy moment my family experiences and the idea of losing another uncle who my family has been able to love and cherish a lot longer terrifies me. I used to have severe anxiety about my grandma dying after she got sick (ironic since I used to pray every night to not wake up the next morning) and now my anxiety pertains to how losing my uncle is going to ravage my family. My grandma and my aunt and uncle are super close. They talk on a near weekly basis if not more frequently. They are the closest among the 5 siblings in the family that are still alive. My aunt and uncle have two sons, one with 3 daughters who are in their mid to early 20s (one is leaving for England soon for a semester abroad) and the other lives states away and had 2 young daughters. The rest of my family and I will be heartbroken when we lose my uncle because he’s pretty much the unofficial patriarch of the family.
I’ve dealt with bad feelings. I’ve dealt with depression. I’ve dealt with being suicidal. I’ve dealt with losing people in my life to suicide. But this particular kind of grief is an emotion that I’m not familiar with. The closest I’ve been to grieving over a loved one in recent years was when my boyfriend’s grandpa, whom I got to be close with during the first year of dating my boyfriend, passed after a long battle with cancer. His loss was filled with sadness, but also peace since he was no longer suffering. With my uncle, I’ve never seen him during his sick times. Cancer and heart disease and other health conditions become more “real” when you see your loved one in a hospital bed, plugged into IV machines and monitors. My uncle has cancer and is dying and doesn’t look like it.
I’m currently processing this as I’m in a hotel room out of state visiting my boyfriend. I didn’t get to deal with the news about my aunt and uncle much on my own last week or this past weekend when I was out of state spending time with my boyfriend’s family. I’m trying to find something to get me through this and prepping for the grieving process and doing things that boost my mood are currently what’s occupying my time. I hate how ruthlessly ironic life is because I found out that my uncle is dying this past Monday and the next day was one of my cousin’s first day as a legal adult. It’s poetic is the worst way, but I guess that’s life. I’m experiencing quintessential life experiences. My younger cousins are not so young anymore and my family member who seem like they will always be around and getting older and sick and will die.
I’m a human adult I guess and I’m not sure I like it.