It was less than a year ago that my family and I celebrated my Uncle Steve’s 60th birthday.
It was a week long surprise that continued to unfold as the days went on.
He knew nothing about it. My aunt had it planned for months. It involved them travelling out of state to our neck of the woods. Three out of his four grown kids made the trip as well, as did I, even though my jaunt didn’t involve a plane ride.
I had a blast sneaking up behind him and surprising him. I know we all experienced an abundance of happiness at being a part of something so awesome, so cool for this man who had no problems letting his inner-child out in a sense of wonder and excitement at each unfolding surprise throughout the week.
The whole thing turned out brilliantly, if I do say so myself. We were all filled with such joy to see his reactions. It was one of those beautiful moments in life that you hold in your heart and cherish.
But there was this one thing none of us saw coming.
The day before the trip, he hadn’t been feeling quite right – and it didn’t go away. Toward the end of his visit, he and the family received some news.
He was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer, and apparently, it was quite aggressive.
Now my uncle was a fighter. Just one of those people who truly lived his life with a sense of zest and vigor. He put everything he had into his treatment and did whatever he could to promote his healing and longevity.
He had always been a physically active man who not only took care of himself because he valued his well-being, but he did so because he genuinely enjoyed a healthy lifestyle.
As a kid, I watched him swim and dive. He was so talented. I used to stare in awe as he would do these crazy flips into the pool like those Olympic divers you see on TV.
I also used to go and spend time with him, my Aunt Abby and my cousins for a few weeks during the summer when my brother and I were teenagers. I always resisted it because I didn’t want to be away from whomever I was dating at the time.
I also remember when they would all come and visit us for a week or so. I was so wrapped up in my own bullshit that I wouldn’t make myself available to spend time getting to know them better. I would isolate myself from everyone – and the amount of regret I feel over this sits on my shoulders as I write these words.
I wasn’t truly present during what could have been some of the best moments of my life.
I’ve learned that hindsight is one of those things that bites you in the ass later on in life if you aren’t someone who appreciates the present moments as the gifts they are meant to be. I’ve written at length about using hindsight in the present moment as a tool for self-awareness, but unfortunately, I wasn’t terribly conscious when I was younger.
If only I could go back to do it all over again.
I say this because we never know when the day will come that someone we cherish may not be around anymore.
And in this case, today is that day.
When You Lose a Loved One
I sit and type these words with a heavy heart because as of this morning, my beautiful Uncle Steve is no longer with us.
He fought hard. Of course, I wasn’t there in person to witness how much he put into his recovery in an effort to at least delay what was inevitable, according to his doctors.
My Uncle was a healthy, positive man.
He didn’t smoke, drink or have any other issues.
He was married to the same woman who he continued to love for over 37 years. They raised four amazing kids (now adults) and they were a productive, creative and loving family unit.
So given all of this, it makes one (or at least me) wonder…
What on Earth could possibly explain how something like this could happen to someone who took damn good care of themselves and had a genuinely benevolent disposition in life?
I’ve been asking myself this question for months and here’s the answer I came up with.
There is no answer for this.
Is brain cancer something we regularly screen for like other types of cancer?
Can we honestly say that just because someone takes care of themselves that they’ll somehow be spared from dying from some disease or illness that seemingly showed up out of nowhere?
I guess not.
When I reflect on all of this, I realize something, and that is –
Sometimes, the only answer is acceptance.
In this case, it sure seems that way.
There was nothing anyone could have done any differently.
Sure, it’s quite possible, maybe even probable the radiation from our cell phones, microwaves and other electronic devices could be a culprit. The food, water and air we consume do have their problems as well.
And yes, I’ll be the first one to admit I don’t have complete faith and trust in the medical, and especially the pharmaceutical industries who profit from illness rather than wellness.
But otherwise, I’ve thought about this from every angle available to me and I simply cannot come up with a way this could have been prevented.
So here we are. I’m sitting here grieving. My family, especially the ones closest to him…well, I can only imagine what they must be going through. My heart aches for them because this left a void that no one else could possibly fill.
When you lose a loved one, the pain is inevitable.
You sit there and wonder if there could have been another way.
A different outcome.
You think about how you’ll manage never seeing that person again. It’s an indescribable ache that no one can fix.
There simply are no words, there is certainly no escape.
There is only acceptance.
And this, believe it or not, is probably the most comforting aspect of this heart-wrenching ordeal.
How to Implement Acceptance
I can’t offer this advice because as of right now, I have absolutely no fucking clue how to do it.
I’ll have to learn this one as I go along.
The wound is still so fresh, but I think about how my family must be feeling – knowing there are no words, food platters, bouquets of flowers or offerings of insight about the afterlife (which I have no experience with, even if I do have my hopes and some hearsay) and I realize there is nothing I can do or say to take anyone’s pain away.
As much as I wish I could wave a magic wand and relieve them of their grief, it can’t be done.
Because death is part of the process of living. We wouldn’t be able to have the experience of life if it didn’t end.
I don’t say these words lightly. My heart is broken and every time I think I’m cried out, it turns out I’m wrong.
There are people I love more than anything who are in so much pain right now and there’s not a damn thing that can be done to take it away.
The same goes for me.
So the only thing left to do is accept there must be a plan that our limited physical minds know nothing about, even if we don’t escape the effects of loss and sorrow while we’re still here in the land of the living.
And maybe this isn’t the real the land of the living. Maybe this is just some blip we go through in order to express and experience God in a temporarily separated state of being. Who knows what someone’s life’s plan was when the spark of light that later became that human being was ignited?
What if it’s possible that our time on Earth was designed by us before we even arrived here? Perhaps nothing is random after all. Just because we don’t know the cause of something doesn’t mean there isn’t one.
In fact, I have good reason to think we don’t know very much at all, and perhaps this too was designed exactly as it’s meant to be.
For us to discover in our own ways.
But in truth, I don’t know for sure.
I might never know.
Maybe you don’t either.
And unless or until I reach some enlightenment on the mysteries of life and death, I will refrain from expressing knowledge I don’t have yet.
In fact, I doubt I’ll spend much time looking for answers. However, I’m sure I’ll keep asking questions.
I’ve heard people talk about their near death experiences and from everything they’ve said, I’m not sure how many of us would choose to come back here if it was up to us to decide.
Supposedly it’s quite beautiful on the other side. That’s where we’re truly alive – whereas this is just a temporary dream we confuse as the real deal – the totality of who we are and our existence.
I’ve written numerous articles and a couple of books about human consciousness and self-awareness. There have been times when I’ve received what felt like downloads of information that combined with my own personal experiences, offered me an understanding of why we’re here and what we’re supposed to do about it.
Lately, however, those insights have dried up. I knew they would. Call it intuition or Divine Guidance.
But I knew there would come a time when I would have to actually USE the tools I was so generously given by some source of Intelligence that I know exists. It would be my test to see if I were capable of remembering what I had learned and using it wisely during the times I would feel separated, depressed and filled with sorrow.
So I can’t come across the same way I have in recent past because this is my time to crawl through the mud and fight my way back to God during some of my darkest moments without any light in sight.
Because that’s up to me to do. It’s a free will choice. We all have them. It’s part of the equipment we show up with when we choose to come down to this crazy ass planet and experience life as a human being.
Or at least, that’s what I think.
Losing someone you love is that punch in the face, kick in the gut that can bring the strongest of people to their knees.
I could have seen my uncle back in November. The timing was so bad for me. Things weren’t looking severe at the time and I thought there would be another chance in a couple of months when I knew my Mom would go back for another visit.
I was wrong.
Things went downhill so fucking fast that before I knew it, my opportunity had passed.
The last time I saw my uncle was when I had said good-bye after his party – and had no clue it would be the last time I’d be in his company.
I can’t change the past now. All I can do is move forward and accept that he is now a memory, albeit a beautiful one that I will hold close to my heart as long as I live.
I don’t have any advice or words of wisdom for you right now, other than to try acceptance on for size. And maybe, if you’re going through a loss, you can read my words and know you’re not alone.
That’s what I’m doing.
Until then, I will forever hold my Uncle Steve in my heart – and allow the man he was to continue to inspire me.
As far as I’m concerned, I’ve just appointed him as the official guardian angle for my family and me.
I hope he’s in a place of pure peace and oneness. That’s how I’ll imagine him anyway.
Unc Estevez, I just cannot believe I won’t see you again. I am so, so sorry we didn’t spend more time together. You were one of the coolest people I’ve ever known – a one of a kind gem of a man. I miss you, I love you and I will forever be so very, very grateful for having had you in my life.
Be at peace.
With so much love,
Dnna (his pet name for me)
If you’ve lost a loved one, I recommend reading “Where is God When Our Loved Ones Get Sick” by Gabe Berman. I read it a few years back, and I’ll be reading it again.