As I write this, I am on a plane back home after spending the past 48 hours with my mother’s extended family as we came together to grieve the loss of my uncle. Frank was my mom’s eldest sibling and the only boy in their family of six. He was a successful businessman, loving father, and doting grandfather. He worked out with a trainer three times a week and was an avid racquetball player. His death came exactly four weeks after his diagnosis of Stage IV Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. We thought we had more time.
His passing came just two months after the same group of Greenfields had gathered for Thanksgiving. Representing four different time zones, 25 of us descended on Dallas as we had done year after year, but this was the first time we would all be together since the start of the pandemic. We watched football on TV, ate a lot of delicious food, and celebrated three birthdays. It felt normal-ish.
His passing came just three months after he had treated his children, grandchildren, and sisters to a belated, but beautiful vacation to Mexico to celebrate his 70th birthday. He proudly announced that they would be returning in two years to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary with his wife, Melanie.
His passing came less than five months after the death of his mother, my maternal grandmother, who fell asleep in her rocking chair one afternoon and didn’t wake up. She was almost 92.
His passing came less than seven months after his eldest grandson’s Bar Mitzvah and 5 weeks before the family will be gathering again to celebrate the same rite of passage for his eldest’s granddaughter.
Life doesn’t usually present us with blatant signs that there’s a rough road ahead. We have to somehow reconcile the impossible tension of loving our people with our whole hearts while also coming to terms with the reality that life is fragile and time is finite. We can’t move forward if we have one foot perpetually on the brake, but it’s scary to feel as though we’re careening off the tracks with no guardrails in sight. Maybe if we proceed with caution, but are able to stay open and curious, we’ll be able to enjoy the ride while navigating the bumps, twists, and curves that may be just around the bend.
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