Anyway, we had some sad news this week. My Uncle (my Dad's brother) passed away on Monday following a fight against cancer for almost a year. And fight is the word! My uncle could do little to fight actually against the disease but he fought hard to keep hold of his pride and dignity. Over the past few months he suffered a rapid decline to become a man that was unrecognisable from the one he was. He was a tall, stocky man but to see him just before he died, he was literally skin and bone and had aged about 20 years.
This weekend, I was in Essex for a wedding. As I was going to be close to where my Uncle lived I decided to go and see him. It wasn't an easy decision. When my Nan was ill I made a conscious decision not to go and see her because I wanted to keep my memories of her when she was well, not for my memory of her to be of how she was when she was ill. With my Nan, though, it would have meant a journey specifically to go and see her. This time, I was going to be in the area anyway and thought I would really regret being so close and not going to see my Uncle one last time. That may sound like excuses to some but neither decision was taken lightly.
I am so pleased that I did see him and think it was the right decision. Yes, he was unrecognisable to the Uncle I remembered before he was ill; Yes, it was uncomfortable, for want of a better word. But I don't regret saying one last goodbye.
What I think is strange is how the human mind copes with such tragic occasions. When I left him that day, at several points through the afternoon/evening and for most of the journey on our way home, I cried. When I wasn't crying, tears were never far away. It hurt to think of the man before and to see what he had become. The next day, I was a little stronger and went to work as (almost) normal but he was always on my mind. I hadn't slept well for the past 3 nights because he was on my mind. Then I got THE text. My phone beeped and I saw it was from my Dad and new this was the text. It took a minute to sink in but then I cried. I ran to the toilet and tried to compose myself. I thought I should tell my Line Manager as this would mean there would be a funeral and I would need to arrange leave from work. As soon as I got in her office, I broke down The poor lady to have this woman burst in to tears on her and garble a message about her Uncle. She was lovely though, made me a cup of tea and sat down talking to me until I felt ready to go back to my desk. She said I could go home if I wished but I preferred the distraction that work would offer. Again, tears were never far away but I managed to hold it together for the rest of the working day and even most of the evening at home.
Then the next day, everything felt a little easier. I haven't forgotten him, I still think about him a lot but the tears aren't bursting at the tear duct seams. It has only been a day but already my mind is trying to heal the hurt. I can talk about it matter of factly. Don't get me wrong, I am still just as upset. If I was to think about things in the same way as I did when I saw him or the day he passed away, I would be just the same as I was then but it is like my mind has distanced me from the pain and has put in a block. I was worried that I would only be able to remember him as I last seen him and the old him would be forgotten but that hasn't been the case. I struggle to remember him as he looked on Sunday but the picture of the old uncle comes springing back. It is like trying to remember a man you have just met compared to one that you have known all your life. To me, they weren't the same person, which probably explains why my memory works like that.
I wonder if I am normal. I have always known that I am good at diverting the pain of such occasions so that I can deal with it but then I wonder whether I am actually dealing with it or instead burying my head in the sand. Will it come back to bite me at a later date.
The funeral is on Wednesday next week. I know I will face the pain once more then. I also know that everyone deals with grief in their own way. But is there a 'correct' way to deal with grief? Am I cold hearted? Should there be an acceptable time period and does it change depending on how close you were to that person?
I guess, for me, time may tell...