The finality of that word seemed hard to grasp. Suddenly my joyful homecoming was filled with grief. My sister's celebration was tinted with pain. And I was angry. Why couldn't he have waited one more week? Just one, so Emily could have her moment. Emily didn't deserve this. She deserved a true celebration. Graduation is supposed to be happy. Coming home to my family is supposed to be happy. But Mark had died, and now all of those happy things held a twinge of pain, of sadness.
And then it hit me. Mark was dead. So when I went to give my grandmother a hug, we both cried. Mark is dead. I'm really glad to see you. But Mark is dead. And I don't know what to think, or how to process this, but my uncle is dead; my dad's closest brother is dead. And he's not coming back.
The weekend carried on as best it could have. There were times of celebration, of joy, and there were times of sorrow. There were times when someone would mention him, share a funny story about Uncle Mark, and we'd laugh. But our laughter was laced with sorrow.
Despite having not seen him in years, I feel close to Mark through all the stories my dad and grandmother shared and the memories I do have. It is these stories that remind me of him, make me smile, and bring some form of peace to his passing. I have a lot of processing to do, and I can't even begin to imagine how my dad, grandmother, and the rest of my family must feel, but I do know this: it is the stories people share of us that we are remembered by. So forgive me if I share too much, or if you don't relate, but I'm honoring my uncle the best way I know how: by sharing the stories I've heard about him and mixing in some of my own stories and memories. No one ever truly leaves us if we choose to remember them and everything they brought to our lives -- the joy, the pain, and the hilarity in between.