Friday, August 15, 2008

saying goodbye

I am in Manitoba visiting family for 10 days. I am a bit at a loss as how to describe this vacation thus far. On the one hand, the familiar prairie landscape is amazing and beautiful and makes me stop and look long and often at the vast skies and sunsets that go on forever. My new niece is a treasure, and seeing Dean animatedly educate her about all the musical artists we are listening to and offer sound business advice on career choices is priceless (she is 4 months old). I loved hanging out with my big and strong nephews and beating them at mini golf (they will tell you otherwise, but don't listen to them - I think the scoring system was slightly biased and did not offer the proper handicap for people from Montreal). This rural life almost takes on a Disney movie quality in its wholesomeness and simplicity.

But there are also some bittersweet moments. The one that probably touched me the most was going to the hospital with my mother. Her younger brother is dying of cancer and she visits him every day. I have not seen this uncle in over ten years, so I thought it was important to accompany my mom on one of her hospital trips. We walked into the room and I saw a rather frail, thin man lying on the bed, his eyes closed. My mom touched him gently and called his name. His eyes fluttered open and though he did not say much because he is quite weak, his eyes followed my mother as she asked a few questions, fussed over his blanket, and helped him drink from a glass of water. She offered a bit of news from the day and I stood off to the side, not wanting to interrupt their exchange which was familial and tender and somehow poetic.

As the time came for us to leave, I wondered if there was anything I could say to him, aside from a brief goodbye, that would be meaningful. Sometimes I have this desire to rise up and say grand things that will make everyone stand back and nod and murmur, "Ah, this is a great truth and we are truly changed by this utterance." But I think this time I mostly wanted him to know that he was a good man and I liked him. My uncle made some bad choices in his life, haven't we all, and I believe that most often we are all too aware of all our shortcomings and really don't need anyone to point them out. What we really need is someone to tell us that we can be forgiven. That there is enough grace in the heart of God to make something good out of all our messes. That all is not lost and hopelessly screwed up. That things can end well, no matter how many chapters of destruction we have written.

As we took our leave, I looked into my uncle's eyes for a long time, but no words came. I wanted to say something, but I feared that a big messy blurt of words might gush out that would confuse him instead of bring clarity, and so I just offered a simple goodbye. I wanted to tell him that the loft bed he built in my bedroom was the best ever, a childhood dream come true, and I loved watching him build things and thought he was a very kind and patient man with a funny, teasing way about him that made me like to be near him, and that it didn't matter about all that bad stuff, I still liked him and thought he was a good man and that my mom loved him very much and so did Jesus and he didn't have to be afraid. But I just said goodbye. And I hope that was enough.

This is a field of bales beside the hospital.

NOTE: My uncle died 3 days after I saw him.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Glad to read of your visit to see Uncle B. Will you still be there for the funeral?
Yreit

Matte Downey said...

yes, I will be here for the funeral. God is very much in charge of timing once again.