I remember sitting next to my uncle in the hospital as he asked how school was as the monitor quietly beeped next to his bed. I remember sitting next to him in the restaurant as our whole family celebrated another birthday, another year of surviving. And I remember standing next to my mom in front of the casket as the people around us cried for my uncle’s death. He was only thirty-six years old, a tragedy that died young.
The lesson I learned from all of the two years of watching him die is that crying, begging, and praying are all useless acts that offer temporary comfort by forcing you to believe that you are doing something helpful.
When I was young, I didn’t understand the meaning of death. I assumed that he would beat cancer over and that all the medicine bottles and trips to the hospital would disappear and that it was all just a matter of time, all I had to do was keep believing.
My uncle was strong. After the surgery, the doctors said that he wouldn’t make it. But after four months in the ICU, he was moved to another facility so continue treatment. He was paralyzed, but he began working hard to begin walking again. And he could. Then one day, my parents told me that he was in remission from cancer, which meant that he could finally come home. Soon he was living on his own and driving to places. He had gotten part of his life back.
But after a couple months of peace, the doctors told us that the cancer had spread to his spine. He was going to die. After finally, just finally getting what he had back, fate had stolen it back from him.
I was frustrated, I was angry, I was disappointed. So were my parents, my relatives, and his friends. But we couldn’t even imagine how he must have felt. He spent his last few weeks apologizing and speaking of his dreams and regrets as all of us listened silently. And then he stopped talking.
No matter how many tears you shed or how many hours you spend reading and researching about any other options besides giving up, all you’re left with is the reality that you cannot change anything.
Many people say that it’s better to be hopeful. They say that I should continue believing that the thing I’m doing will eventually help in the future, just not right now. They say that keeping my chin up and smiling will help, that things willl eventually get better. They say that continuing to believe that there is an ‘and’ to all of this.
Sometimes, I remember the day my dad sat on the couch with his head buried in his hands, telling me that my uncle had passed away that summer morning.