Thinning of the Veil

The other night, I returned a call to one of my aunts, my father’s only sister. She had left a voice mail on our phone a few weeks ago, and every time I thought about calling her back, it was too late (2-hour time difference between Colorado and North Carolina). So, I finally thought of it at convenient time and dialed the number. It was good to talk to her, to hear the soft Southern accent that I have come to miss, and to hear that her voice, and her lucid words were not the least bit different from 20 years ago. Even though I have not seen her in a while, I can tell that this is a woman who is “aging well”.
The same cannot be said about my uncle. A number of years ago, after experiencing pain and numbness in his legs, my uncle was diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease or CMT. Now, while degenerative, this is not a fatal condition, but in a person who had always been very active and an avid walker, it was not good news. The disease has progressed until now, at 83, he is pretty much immobile, even though he is not “sick” per se. By that I mean he does not have cancer, Alzheimers, etc. But, as I am finding out, as you get older, if you do not stay mobile and active every day, downhill can come VERY fast.
My aunt and uncle have had a really wonderful marriage. My aunt was the middle girl between 2 boys, my father and my uncle Jim. And raised my a mother who thought the sun rose and set in her boys, but never had much good to say about her daughter, so needless to say, there was always some strain in those familial relationships. Especially because my father and my uncle really liked one another, and enjoyed each others’ company. So, I’m sure during childhood, and even in adult life, my aunt often felt like the “odd one out”. These are realizations I’ve come to in my own adult life; growing up, of course, I never thought about it.
We didn’t see them often; like so many American families, the kids had moved away from home, different states, and in my uncle’s case later, to a different country (Switzerland). So, we never felt particularly close to any aunts, uncles, or cousins given that we only saw them every 3 years or so, and then only for maybe a week at a time. Not conducive to cementing relationships.
But let’s fast forward to 1990. My dad is terminally ill with pancreatic cancer and is, understandably, have a tough time, more so mentally and spiritually, than physically. It’s Memorial Day Weekend, and somehow, both his siblings have managed to get to Atlanta to visit at the same time, kind of a mini reunion. My uncle Norris (the one with CMT), a retired Presbyterian minister, goes back to spend some time with Daddy in his room. I have no idea what transpired during that visit, but all I know is that when they left a couple of days later, Daddy was somehow changed. I was living with my parents at that time, and helping my mother take care of him, the house, the bills, etc. I could tell that there was a sense of peace on him that had not been there before. Certainly, he did not WANT to die, but after his time with Norris, somehow he became more relaxed, more able to just BE in the present moment and not worry so much about what was coming. What an amazing gift. Shortly after that weekend (on July 3, 1990), Daddy passed peacefully at the house, in his own bed, surrounded by my mother and his 4 kids. Ten months after that, my uncle Jim died unexpectedly in a fire in his house in Switzerland.
Flash forward again to the other night. My aunt and I are chatting about various things, I tell her about daughter’s impending wedding, the boys, my travels, etc., and then we talk about Norris, how she’s caring for him at home, just put in a hospital bed, how she turns him every 2 hours when she’s not getting home-health, etc. What’s going on with her daughters (3), 2 of whom live nearby, the third out this way, living in Arizona. Then she tells me that the other day, after they put the hospital bed in, Norris asked her who all was in the house. She told him it was him, her, and the cat, and why was he asking?
He said, “Well, your brothers were here earlier, but they’re not here now. They went hunting. Oh, and W.D. (my grandfather, HER father) was with them, too.”
Wow. I firmly believe the dead come back to help the dying “over”. My own dad talked about a “greenskeeper” that he kept seeing as he got closer to the end. So, I guess they know that Norris is on his way. I’m glad he saw them. I’m glad they’re hanging around for him. I wish I could go and spend some time with them right now, but financially, it’s simply not feasible. So, I’ll sent my prayers, my thoughts, and my own good energy for a peaceful passing when the time is right. And hope that when my time comes, they’ll all show up for me.

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