Sunday, May 20, 2007

Uncle Willie

My Uncle Willie died yesterday. Just like that. Nobody even told me he was sick. But then his family has always been stingy with information. Turns out he had cancer. He died peacefully with my Aunt and all his family around him. I just wish I could go to his funeral. That's what families are for. Among other things. To make a good showing at the turning points in our lives. Like baptisms and weddings and funerals. Long ago, when I was young and flippant, and had no care for the future, I made a decision that ensured I would very rarely be able to show up.

When my dad was dying we lived in California. Heaven and earth had to be moved by the OC and my F-I-L to get a passport for baby Liz and get us half way around the world,asap.

When Rise,my only sister, got married, I couldn't go. Three small children and a skinny bank account.

When my mother was dying of cancer Rise was the one trekking daily to hospice, while I wrung my hands ineffectually in Montana. I did, however, make it home for her funeral.

When my cousin, Willie's oldest, got married a few years ago, I was at first determined to go, since there was no longer the excuse of small children. But somehow I was overruled.

And now Uncle Willie has gone to join his brother, our Uncle Denis, in the great cattle market in the sky. I'm not sure my mother would be hanging out at the celestial cattle mart, but she'll probably be waiting at the pearly gates, along with our tall Granddad, Garrett O'Rourke, him of the benign smile and the snow-white moustache [known to me mainly through photographs, as he died when I was only four]. With Granny on his arm, in one of her flowered dresses, with her silver hair tied back in a bun. There'll be singing and dancing and jigs and reels in heaven after the funeral on Monday.

Auntie Bid [I couldn't say her name correctly and my version stuck] is the only one of my mother's siblings left. She was the youngest, and as mad as a March hare, and lots of fun. But now she's in a nursing home because they couldn't get her to take her medicine. The cousins come and take her out frequently. If I hadn't dipped out I could be doing my share there too. As it is, she probably wouldn't know me. So sad, growing old and having all your friends and peers drifting off, one by one, leaving you alone.

As a small child I remember spending time at Granny's. Uncle Denis was the heir to my grandfather's farm, being the oldest son. But Uncle Willie had a cunning plan. He was courting Shelia L, over the hill. Shelia was an only child, on a big farm adjacent to the O'Rourkes. I remember teasing him as he got ready to go. "Willie's going courting!" Polishing his boots and putting Brylcream in his hair. And, while he polished, singing "The Yellow Rose of Texas". Throughout my life, whenever I've heard that song I think of Uncle Willie.

By and by, the lovely Shelia succumbed to his charms. Theirs was the first wedding I ever attended. I was ten. And sat beside a grown up cousin whom I adored. Who explained to me how to eat the grapefruit with the little cherry on top. There was singing and dancing later, and a little too much to drink for the grown-ups. As young as I was, I remember feeling bad for my mother when my dad very publicly flirted with another cousin, sister to the one I'd sat with. It was such a mystery to me, all this grown up intrigue.

The following year we were out to visit in the country again, and the young couple had their first baby. Who I remember tightly grasping my little finger, in the way that tiny babies do.

A few years later this tiny baby, was running around in the farmyard, cursing a blue streak, a talent she'd learned from her dad,to the grevious mortification of her ladylike mother. It was she who called with the sad news. She gave up cursing a long time ago and turned out to be more like her mother, our aunt.

Now that lovely, ladylike aunt has lost her life's partner. I spoke to her today and she sounded characteristically philosophical. Glad that he'd died peacefully, with herself and their eight children around him. That's the way to go. Not the lonesome way so many people die these days, far from family and friends and a place they love.

"Slawn leath" Uncle Willie. May you be in heaven half an hour before the divil knows you're dead. And may you rest in peace.


Tanya Brown said...

Oh, goodness. I'm sorry about your uncle's death and the fact that the upper leaves on the family tree have gradually been coming down. It's the way of life and nature but it's also poignant, especially when one would like to be there to help and to say goodbye.

As I read your story and experiences, I was hearing echos of other stories. People boarding ships to seek their fortunes or escape bad circumstances, and having tearful goodbyes and perhaps never hearing from loved ones again. With some minor variations this is pretty much the story of human history, the great diaspora which populated the entire planet.

It sounds incredibly hard in some ways, and despite the good that has come with it, there are bound to be regrets. Nevertheless, I think you're a little rough on yourself about not considering the consequences when you were young. That is simply the way eighteen or twenty or twenty-five is, a little vague on the idea of loved ones eventually growing old and passing away, or the impact of straying so far from the nest. If one is ever going to hare off on adventures and meet dashing young men, that is the time to do it. You did, and although I'm sorry for some of the things that have accompanied it, I also admire you.

There; does that long comment earn me guest blogger status?

Molly said...

Rest in peace Uncle Willie. Reading about your family and the big life events reminds me once again that life is so short. We need to love our friends and family as much as we can while they are here on Earth. Even though we cannot always be with our loved ones for important events, today we can contact people in so many ways, phone, mail, and e-mail. Additionally, our loved ones are always in our thoughts and prayers. Take care, I am thinking about you this evening.

Stomper Girl said...

Sorry to hear about your Uncle Willie. Hope you are okay.

Birdydownunder said...

sorry about Uncle Willie but hope he is partying and looking down on us bloggers all writing about him. :) Strange but true, I have never been to a funeral. I too left my land of birth and here I am with just The Scot, 3 children all out in the world. I know my passing will be like a feather dusting your cheek, no-one to miss me here, but then hey I have lived the life I choose and all in all I know that I would do the same again. Just hope I have done something drastic enough to be remembered by. Only those who have left the comforts of family know the feelings deep down in ones soul. aubirdwoman

molly said...

TB - Guest blog any time you want over here! You are the voice of sanity and good sense. If we imposed the caution of age on the young they'd never have great adventures, never meet dashing young foreigners and dive with them into the unknown.....
mjd and Stomper, thank you. My Uncle had a long and full life.
I don't really want to go to the party SMc, since to get in I'd have to be dead, but I'm betting it'll be a blast!

meggie said...

Your account of Uncle Willie brought tears to my eyes- the remembrance of my own mother's dying. We were all around her, & she knew we were there, though she couldnt talk or move. It was so harrowing, but I am so glad we were all there. It must be the best death, to be surrounded by those who love you.

Tracey Petersen said...

Farewell Uncle Willie, it sounds to me like you left your mark on this world!

My float said...

I'm so sorry about your uncle, and your loss. It's times like these when you really feel the distance of land and water.

As far as passings go, it seems like he was fortunate. Could we all be so lucky.

(This is a beautiful post to read.)

Brooke - Little Miss Moi said...

Dear molly. That's a sad story told in a lovely way. I'm glad his family was by his side.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Sorry for your loss. Uncle Willie seems to have had a full life and enjoyed it with the ones he loved.

Lily said...

What a lovely farewell for Uncle Willie. You've got a way with words, lady.

Diana said...

I was sorry to hear about your uncle, Molly. It sounds like he had a rich, full life.

Julie's Journey said...

You write beautifully.
So said to for you to lose another close relative and being away doesnt help either I know. Take care.

Suse said...

R.I.P. to your uncle.

Blessings to you Molly.

fifi said...

these things that shape the living of life, death love, birth. Goes round and round...

There are things we miss when the yare gone, that never really leave us.

I hope you don't miss your uncle too much.
And I am sure you have grown roots into the soil where you are planted now.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

What a lovely story about people who are now very real to me, thanks to your prodigious talents with words.

It's a sad fact of life that everything must be paid for. You got to journey afar to a life that was unimaginable when you were a child in Ireland, but in doing so, lost the easy access to home and family that means so much when something like this happens.

I'm sure that your Uncle Willie understood your heart, and that you carry all your family in it always.

It was a good death, as deaths go, one of the best, as he deserved. We should all be so lucky. Slawn leath.