Because I Could Not Stop for Death

The recent passing of my great uncle has left me thinking about the theme of life and its counterpart. For Generation Y, most of us are probably still healthy and living normally without intense focus or concern by necessity for our health. To those in our ranks who have passed from this world, you are missed, and we shall persevere in your memory.

My great uncle was a humble man, but it was his humility that made him a great man. My uncle was blind from a time in his 30s and lived to be 94. I can’t be certain if medical science could have changed things if he had received better care, but a combination of earlier childhood infection and later issues took his vision completely. Still, out of many people I knew, he could probably see more clearly than most. As a young child, I remember visiting him and my great aunt and being given attention like a person. I say this because children are sometimes preferred “seen and not heard,” but I was included in our family.

As I would later learn from my godfather, my uncle endured a life outside of normal person-hood when people would ask my aunt if my uncle wanted more food at a formal gathering while he was sitting at the same table. Only his eyes were affected, but his hearing, his heart, and his mind were fully active. It was from this experience that I think my uncle chose to open his heart, and be a better example for including those who are often excluded. Learning from my uncle, I think Gen Y should see that just because someone has a visible impairment, illness, or even an unseen health concern, it does not make them less of a person, make them incapable of strong ideas or emotions, or put them in a circle of exclusion. All people need love, and by working towards inclusion, we help everyone find a better balance in managing life, and whatever challenges they face.

Speaking medically for a moment, I have lost a few family members after some drawn-out illnesses. For Gen Y, it with our parents and grandparents that we are learning about end of life concerns, and seeing the resulting sandwich generation issue. I don’t want to denigrate any of the many wonderful, skilled, and dedicated medical professionals in our workforce, but the system has left much to be desired. In some ways with my aunt, who passed a few years back, as well as my uncle, we had to fight to get the care they needed. Seeing how this happened, I’m better prepared when I become the caregiver in the sandwich, but I am holding hope that things will change. More people are moving towards needing end of life care, and we should not ignore the need to reform the industry to handle the population growth.

My uncle slipped in and out of lucid thought as he neared the end, and to my knowledge, he was not in any great pain. The pain is felt by those left behind, and even harder when the person we love is still alive, but the spark of their life no longer registers in their words, or in their body. Now that he is at peace, those left behind will honor his legacy.

A few days ago, a man passed from this world. A man who loved others, sang his faith in service to his church, and could see more clearly than most. We cannot be certain of what is to follow this life on earth, but my uncle is not dead. He lives on in me, and his example of seeking a loving and inclusive world is the example I will try to carry all my days. To any living in sadness now, I offer my love, and life will continue. Life is a journey, often with struggles and hardship, but we grow better and stronger from all that we experience.