September 20, 2012

a goodbye of the worst, and best kind

We drove west toward the beach, Dad and Daniel and I, exchanging few words.  It was morning, and Grammy was keeping the kids at the condo so I could say goodbye to my uncle.  As we rode, I was thinking about the past.  I was thinking about his booming voice that always was so kind, and how quick his smile always came.  I have the same smile, it belonged first to his mother (my grandmother), and her twin sister, though I suppose it came from someone else before that.  He had my grandmother's dark skin, too, and her thoughtfulness, and her loyalty, and her joy.  All four of the kids in Dad's family got the trait of joy.  It is a strong trait.  I have it, too.

When we got to the house, my aunt opened the door with a smile.  There was wear on her face, but her eyes were bright.  Her husband, who's arm she had been on since high school, was still with her, for now, and she was grateful.  My uncle sat on a stool in the kitchen, the outline of his bones showing through his cotton shirt.  The cancer had not been kind.

We made our way to the living room where he could sink his frame into a plush chair.  His chin nearly touched his chest because his neck hadn't the strength to hold it up. 

"You are leaving in a few days to go back to Asia again, is that right?" he said.
"Yes, we won't be back for several years," I said.
"Then this is like a funeral," he said.  He was smiling at me.
"Yes," I said, "a live funeral," and I turned my head away and cried.

When we had talked and laughed and shed more tears, we prayed together before we parted ways.  He took my hand, and I was surprised at how big and strong it still was.  I don't know what I was expecting.  I guess a man's hands are still his hands, even at the end.

After we had all said the L0RD's prayer together, I kissed him and hugged him and turned to leave.  He slowly walked us to the door.  When I looked back from the end of the driveway, I saw him standing in the shadows of the hall.  That was the last time I would see my uncle.  Dick Rademaker.  A wonderful man.

That was almost two months ago.

Today he died.  My mom called to tell me.  I sat on the edge of my bed and cried.

I love you, Uncle Dick.  I will miss you.  I will see you again!  Goodbye.