My heart dropped this week when I heard one of my uncles succumbed to cancer five days before Christmas. He was the uncle I feared most. I know he was a good man. I didn’t think the man knew how to form a complete sentence until I was in my twenties. My Dad used to say that was my issue, and he was right, but Ron was different. He was in the military most of the years I grew up. Ron’s exterior was gruff. He was brilliant but lacked a lot of common sense. In many ways, he was my go-to person for information on my family history when my Dad died. He was a man of few words, but those words mattered when spoken. People’s perceptions are different when it’s family versus what we see in other roles.
When I was growing up, Ron was an enigma to me. He had a daughter named Beverly. She was one year older than me, and we loved playing together when we were small. Then Ron and his wife Sybil divorced, and Beverly was in the middle. I didn’t see her again until I was an adult. She had a complicated relationship with him. It was understandable, but there is no doubt in my mind how much he loved her. It was challenging to figure out his emotions. He had a knack for missing the most dangerous things. Yet, in the end, cancer was the mine that he managed to land.
At the age of about five, my parents went on a trip with Ron and the new woman in his life, Daranee. This woman was magical to me. I had never encountered such an exotic goddess in my life. Her raven hair enveloped her body. She was tiny in stature and mysterious by nature. I thought the woman was a witch. I’d never met anyone who could taste gold and tell you the exact carat of the gold until I’d met her. She embodied someone I’d never imagined. When they married, I found her to be fascinating. Her knowledge of herbs and minerals was vast. She helped me gain an appreciation for cultural differences. Their daughters – Elizabeth and Jessica, were born several years later. Over the years, both girls grew up and started their own families. They are as different as night and day.
Both my father and Ron fought cancer. This Christmas season is going to be tough for the kids and grandkids Ron leaves behind. When my father died, I had to learn how to function without him. My family is resilient, just like many other families. It’s difficult for me to acknowledge how cancer snuck in and took them when they were still full of vitality. The older we get, we become acutely aware that our time on earth grows shorter. The stark reality is that death isn’t what we dread. It’s the idea of going on without those we love. It’s the fact that our anchor has changed. We no longer have that individual to be our rock. We have to learn how to live without them, and the holidays are no exception. Everyone expects to be so happy at Christmas, but when you lose people you love dearly, the lights seem to dim more than we thought possible. The bodies we inhabit die but not our souls. There is an essence in what others leave behind that becomes legendary. We create our footprints in the minds and hearts of those who are left to celebrate our legacies.