Loss

My uncle died on December 2, 2012. He was driving somewhere at 3:00 AM when he hit a patch of black ice. He wasn't wearing his seat belt, because he never did, so when his car hit a rock on the side of the road he went flying out through the windshield.

My dad called me at 11:30 that morning from my mom's cell phone and left a voice mail, saying he had something to tell me. When I called him back later he suggested I sit down before I heard what he had to say. No one ever gives good news after saying something like that, so I started freaking out. At first I thought there was something wrong with my mom since he'd called from her phone, and then my mind immediately went to my siblings. What if something had happened?

I wasn't at all expecting him to say that my uncle who lived in Montana had died in a car crash in the wee hours of the morning. He was supposed to be coming home for Christmas in two weeks, how could anything be wrong with him? 

I didn't sit down when my dad suggested but I did after he told me. 

Four Years Later

Fast forward 4 years and my family is still really sad about the loss of my uncle. Especially my mom who lost her younger brother. Before this tragic event I didn't think a whole lot about losing my siblings because they're all younger than me and we don't really do anything stupid, but anything can happen even if you're not being stupid. My mom had talked to my uncle just days before, about Christmas and whatever else, and things were fine. How could she imagine what was to come? She couldn't.

And even though I have now accepted that anything can happen and that a tragic event could be on it's way this very instant, I still can't imagine it. I can't imagine my life without my four siblings or my parents or my cousins or any of my family members. 

For the first few months after my uncle's death I could sometimes trick myself into thinking he was still alive and in Montana. After all, we only ever saw him at Christmas. So why couldn't he just be out there, selling mattresses and fishing? 

Dealing with Death

Being three days away from my 25th birthday I feel like I should have a better handle on dealing with death but just the other day I had a mini panic attack in my head over it. There will be a day when I am dead. As a Catholic I'm pretty sure I'm not supposed to be scared because heaven and Jesus and God's eternal love.

But what is death like? Will there be a moment where I have no consciousness? A moment during which I cease to exist? My faith has taught me that we have souls, which are kind of like our eternal selves, so there shouldn't be that moment, but there could be. I could just be gone. That's how it feels when our loved ones die, at least at first. They're gone and we don't get to talk to them or see them or spend time with them or stalk them on Facebook anymore. 

I've noticed that when we (at least me) think about people dying we only think of it in terms of how we deal with it. It's like Hazel Grace said in The Fault in Our Stars, "Funerals, I had decided, are for the living." I think that part of the reason we (I) get so worried and upset are because we have to face our own mortality. Our loved one is dead and gone and one day I will be too. 

It's hard to deal with. I don't really know if I'm doing it right or at all, but most days I try not to think about death. I try to be thankful for what I have. And when I think about loved ones who have died, I try to remember the good stuff.

The image for this post is actually a painting I made for my mom called Montana in July. It's from a memory I have of when we visited my uncle in Montana. We went white water rafting and hiking and star gazing while we were there. On my favorite day we went up a very long trail to the top of a mountain and along the way we came across snow. Obviously mountains are tall enough to have snow on them (that's why people always draw them with white caps) but it was July and I didn't even think snow would be possible. But it was and after the initial shock my entire family had a snowball fight on top of a mountain in the middle of July. It was great, and any time I think of my uncle I think of that trip and that day. 

Published by Kristina Hemmerling