never say uncle

Non-fiction, 5/26/09

I wish I could say that we had been friends, Uncle Nareth. The truth is, I didn’t know you really, and we lived so far apart that regular visits would’ve been a bit of a hassle. Plus our family doesn’t communicate well (something I’d like to change), and we’re hardly a tight-knit bunch to begin with (another thing I’d like to change). But every few years or so, when we did make that cross-country trip, I was fortunate enough to share your presence in the company of our kin. And such a presence it was. Always smiling, always quick to laugh and poke fun, you were gregarious and so very kind, and you would go out of your way to talk with my brothers and I at those family gatherings. Never will I forget how comfortable I felt speaking to you, even though we were nearly strangers, having little in common but our genes.

I wish I better understood the disease that took your life. Those mutant cells, unwilling to self-destruct like any decent malfunctioning cell would, instead proliferated wildly inside your brain, congregating in two malignant, golf-ball sized tumors behind your eyes. The tumors were removed successfully; the cancer appeared to be in full remission. I remember visiting you then, seeing that jagged line of stitches across your bare scalp when you took off your hat. You were remarkably upbeat about things, despite being worn out by the endless barrage of drugs and radiation. But then there was a relapse. The malignant cells had spread, or metastasized, into your lungs, and the chemotherapy began anew to thwart their encroachment. It was simply too much, though. You were fighting hard against an indomitable foe—the odds were stacked; the bout was rigged. It just wasn’t fair.

I wish I had been there to share those last moments with you and our family. You were in good hands, though, and I kept you in my thoughts, as I’ll continue to do. You came so far, Uncle Nareth, and you would’ve gone infinitely further still. I hope that wherever you are, you will by chance read these words and know that I love you, and I’ll miss you.

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