Uncle Eddie, my mom’s little brother, died just before Christmas this year.
I knew this would be hard on Mom the moment I saw her standing in the middle of her kitchen, in tears.
She had just received the call.
After years of Alzheimer’s,
Ed was dead in the middle of the night having gotten up to go to the bathroom.
Then, just like that, the kitchen filled with the rest of our family.
People poured in all dressed up for Mom’s Sunday brunch kicking off our Christmas.
The mini-reunion was filled with hugs and laughs
until I could not stand
the unacknowledged elephant a moment longer.
“Uncle Eddie died! Mom just found out.”
Every Christmas dinner I can recall, we had oysters and ambrosia
in honor of my Grandfather who was born of Christmas day. And Mom would tell the story of his birth and our tradition
until she started crying.
Her beloved father had died at 57, self-inflicted gunshot to the head.
Fourteen year-old Eddie had found him in the bathroom.
Mom never told that part of the story. But we all knew why she cried. And now Eddie entered once again into Mom's Christmas saddness.
After New Years my cousin, Kim, emailed to ask if I had any pictures of her dad.
She was making up a book for her mother.
I knew I had a few:
A cold Thanksgiving hiding in the hayloft of their barn in southern Illinois,
A sweltering summer reunion with both of Mom’s brothers,
the one and only time all eleven cousins were ever in the same place.
Because, I guess like many families,
anger can be held for years.
I looked through some 50 years of photos
trying to stay on my task, trying not to feel that much
to come up with the six I scanned and Photoshopped for Kim:
“The Men.” “The Wives.” “The Cousins.” “Grandma.”
Afterwards, I couldn’t get to sleep.
God, the pain and love with family. No wonder some of us have disappeared for years.
It’s here we are most deeply wounded
we cannot really run away.
Try as we may.
It is impossible
- like trying to escapes your very bowels.
Impossible. Because at bottom, there is love and self.
And I cannot, for the life of me, comprehend Life.
It’s a mystery.
How is it to possible be Here,
And then Not?
It is beyond all words.
Here and then Not…
Is this lack of comprehension just my way of intuiting the Eternal?
Having existed, always existing?
Kim, upon receipt of the pictures, simply replied,