Bye-bye Uncle John

I know you’re all wondering why I’ve fallen off the face of the earth.  You’re probably thinking I was scuba diving in Belize or digging wells with Matt Damon in Ethiopia or perhaps you think Mister surprised me with a trip to Greece.

I wish any of those scenarios were true.  Sadly, Mister’s brother, John, fell ill and passed away suddenly.  Our little family packed up late one night and left the following morning for a cross-country trip to Chicago lasting two weeks and a day.

our "little" family packed in the car

At times, parenting very young children is exhausting.  When they’re awake, they’re needs take precedence over everything else.  It can be so frustrating!  I find myself saying, “Can’t I finish one load of laundry?  Do you really need a snack right this minute?  A band-aid for Bear will have to wait.”

What I wouldn’t give to complete one simple task without a million interruptions.  However, during this heartbreaking trip, I welcomed the children’s distractions.  I’m not sure how Mister and I would have survived the wake and service without tending to Bunder and Kiki’s potty breaks, diaper changes, snacks, meals, naps, and entertainment.  I think my heart would have crushed from the weight of the finality of the occasion.

I still can’t believe I’ll never hear John’s voice telling one of his stories in typical Irish fashion or have the chance to ask about the five books that he’s read this week.  Mister and I aren’t sure what to do with the bag of empty wine bottles saved in the garage for John’s famous, homemade wine.  It all seems so surreal, so final, so sad.

My prayers are with John’s wife and children.  I can’t imagine how they must feel – especially now.  All others seemingly return to normal, daily life, and yet every minute of every day they face a huge gaping hole in their world.   Normal as they know it ceases to exist.

How do I explain all of this to a two and a half-year-old?  How do I help him understand his uncle has departed?  Do I lie and say, “Uncle John is sleeping.”  Do I not say anything at all and let Bunder construct his own understanding?  What do I say?  What would you do?

When our family approached John’s casket for the FINAL time, I held Bunder in my arms.  Mister wrapped his arm around me.  My eyes overflowed with tears.  I gazed at the large bouquet of flowers in Bears’ orange and blue with the ribbon that read “Loving Brother”, the bouquet on his casket “Loving Husband, Loving Father, Loving Papa” and the book placed next to him, the New York Times Bestseller, Heaven is For Real, with a sticky note that read, “John’s last read.”

Bunder said, “Shh.  Uncle John is sleeping.  We can’t wake him.”

I believe children deserve the truth (no matter how young), so I corrected him and said, “No.  Uncle John isn’t sleeping.  We’re saying good-bye to him.  Uncle John is going to heaven.”

Bunder in all his innocence and youth accepted my words as absolute truth and without pausing said, “Bye-bye Uncle John.  See you later.”


About Mother Ruckus

Living the dream of motherhood and hoping to survive. View all posts by Mother Ruckus

4 responses to “Bye-bye Uncle John

  • Shannon M

    Tears come easily these days. Reading this post was no exception. Every day I add more things to the list of what I will miss about my dad. I loved your reference to “the 5 books he read that week” – so true!
    But Bunder is right. No matter how much we will miss “Uncle John” for now, we will see him later. Thanks for reminding us, little cousin.

  • Erin B

    I will believe for the rest of my life that my Dad hung on so long waiting to say goodbye to you and his newest nephew and niece. I am so glad you were there with us on his final day. And you are right, the distractions of all of the children we were surrounded by in those days were welcomed. They are a true sign that life goes on. I remember my Dad telling me after our first family dog died, “I am sad that she is gone, but I still have to go to work and you still have to go to school.” Life goes on.

    I don’t think I will ever forget what happened next in your story. Bunder looked back at Uncle John and said, “Mommy, Uncle John is sleeping over there in that bed. I can’t wake him up, Mommy. I can’t wake him up.” The words run like a stream through my mind. It’s the simplest of understandings of what has happened. I wish I could be so lucky as to have this as my understanding. Bunder is lucky to have his family who will share all of the great things about his Uncle John with him as he grows older. And there will come a day when he will understand his loss, that he did not have the chance to know his Uncle John who loved him. But I imagine he is right, we will see Uncle John again later, and we will know him in our hearts until then.

  • Mother Ruckus

    Oh, Erin, your comments made me cry all over again. You are so right! I do believe he will live on in our hearts – especially yours and your sister’s and brother’s. And we will see him again. I’m confident of this.

    I’m thinking and praying for you as “life goes on.” You’re right, it most certainly does, but I know it can’t be easy for any of you.

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