Earlier this week I learned that my aunt's husband passed away on Friday. Our relationship (me and my uncle) had always been tense. There are just some people in this world that no matter how hard you try you just can't be comfortable with them. No matter how much it might mean to someone important in your life it is impossible to like or trust some people. Maybe the situation says more about me than about him. I don't know.
It has been hard for me, not because I feel any great sense of loss, but because I have never been so far away from my family at a difficult time like a death in the family. I am that kid who takes off work for every great-aunt or uncle's funeral. I feel a little helpless here so far away. I can't cook or help with music or clean something or drive people around (all things that seem to make a house in mourning run smoothly). I could send a card but it might take weeks to get there. Seems a little cruel to send a card knowing that it will arrive just about the time my aunt starts to feel a little less sad. I did manage to find a way to call her, but other than saying "I'm sorry for your loss" there wasn't much else I could do.
Maybe I'm more struck by the fact that he is the first person from my parents' generation to pass away in our family. The older generation (my grandparents and greats) has always been that for me, older. In my memory, my parents and aunts and uncles were once young. They weren't always grey-haired and wrinkled and creaky. They had smooth skin and didn't wear polyester. They moved and thought quickly. They were slightly inappropriate at times. They laughed and had fun, and in fact they still do. They aren't old like my grandparents' generation always seemed to me. They were just like I am now. They are far too young to start dying.
Here I thought this would be about handling death at a great distance from home, and it's probably more about handlling my own mortality, right here, right now.