Last week was a week of recognition of a life well lived. The life of a quiet gentleman. My Uncle Robin. Rockin’ Robin. Dizzy. (And no, I don’t know why he was called Dizzy. The Uncle Robin I knew was the opposite of Dizzy. Maybe it was one of those weird Aussie nicknames- like when you call the guy with the red hair Bluey.)
We took some time out of our usual life to be elsewhere- in minds and in bodies and in emotions. We took a break in normal programming to simply be with each other, Mum and I, and all of those who loved him best.
It was a guiltysad funeral.
Guilty that you are, for a brief moment, glad that it’s all over for him, and for those closest those who were witness to the slow ebbing away of the things that made him unique. For as the body slowly dissolves with cancer, you see a dissolution of essence. The skin loses it’s luminescence and a greying pallor replaces the vibrancy of healthy skin cells. Eyes that once sparkled with mischief and wit cloud over a little. And the affairs of the living- the minutiae of life along with the wonder of broad vistas- are no longer of interest to them. The healthy and hale share those many moments with those we love, trying trying to use our Siren Song to lure them back to life with us, even as we watch our words wash over them. They are here with us in flesh for fleeting moments. Their being tells us they are mostly moving on to whatever is next. And yet we try to hold fast to them as they continue to float away from us. The only solace for us is the serene way in which they drift.
Being at a funeral is always surreal. Torn between not wanting to be there at all, not wanting to feel the constriction in your throat that is keeping the grief from surfacing, and not ever wanting to leave, as once you exit you know that a chapter has closed. That your person will no longer be spoken about as much as they are, this day. I once heard a quote by Ernest Hemingway:
“Every man has two deaths, when he is buried in the ground and the last time someone says his name. In some ways men can be immortal.”
And so we mention and we mention and we mention their name. We share the moments we had with them. We tell and re-tell those stories until they are as careworn as their now-still faces.
The celebrant at my uncle’s funeral reminded us of the importance of this moments. That is what we truly remember: moments and interactions, feelings and the ways they touched our own hearts. Moments are recalled more than whole days or even weeks. This celebrant said that if each of us wrote down one moment they had with my uncle, then we would have a book. And he was right. We would have the book of his life. The real book. The book that told of his intellect, and wicked sense of humour. The book that told not only of what he did, but the way in which he did. The meticulous care he took with detail and organisation. The unhurried way he looked into your eyes when you shared a story. The dedication to a routine and a rhythm of life that was composed of precisely everything he loved, culled of things he did not. A life of design where nothing was wasted, and nothing was frivolous.
There’s lots to love in a life like that. A life where you know exactly who you are, and the people you surround yourself with. Where you do precisely what you love, no matter what it looks like to others. Where you are safe, secure and loved enough to be able to offer that very same thing to those around you.
A life where others know if they are included in your circle, then they are valued.
I think it is the kind of life I want to live.
Vale Uncle Robin.
You are one of life’s true gentlemen.