Yesterday, my family traveled, caravan-style, the nearly 3 hour trip to say goodbye to my Uncle Gary.
I watched my mother's pain, from her heartbreak over the loss of a dear brother-in-law, from her worry and understanding of what my aunt is going through, and from the memories of her husband's own death flooding over her.
I watched my eldest daughter sob when she realized that she would never see her favorite Great Uncle again.
I watched my baby brother put on a dress shirt and tie, and witnessed his solemn face as he took on the role of pallbearer of an uncle who was so kind to him after our own father died.
I watched my dear little grandma as she held it together while burying her last son. Her only son died in 1991; her first son-in-law, my aunt's husband of 32 years, died in 1997; and now she was saying goodbye to the kind and gentle man who was a son to her for the past 35 years.
And I watched my aunt and cousin Kate hold their heads up and say goodbye to this dear man in a truly dignified yet pained manner, my own heart breaking knowing that this morning they'll wake up to a quiet house, and they'll realize that this is the beginning of a life that is so different.
My Uncle Gary was a wonderful, kind, good man. I know very few people who don't gossip or judge, and Uncle Gary was one of them. I never heard him make a judgmental statement in his entire life. He accepted everyone for who they were; he loved everyone for who they were.
I returned to Wisconsin for the Thanksgiving of 1997, pregnant, alone, ashamed, terrified and mortified. We went to Uncle Gary and Aunt Louise's for that Thanksgiving. When walking in, Uncle Gary gave me a huge bear hug and said, "A new baby in the family! Sarah, this will be wonderful! Congratulations! A new life--I can't wait."
And he truly meant every word. He was the first to celebrate the absolute joy and perfection that Hatfield is.
At the service, time and time again, people focused on what a wonderful husband and father Uncle Gary was. His two girls--his wife and daughter--were his world. Uncle Gary's hobbies and activities were whatever was important to his daughter. I saw how closely bonded Gary and Kate were. He loved her and delighted in the person she is; he never put his own likes or thoughts of how she should be upon her. Cliff witnessed that bond for the past 9 years and has said for years now that watching Gary and Kate was his greatest model for how he wants to be with his own children.
This has been the most draining and difficult week I've had in several years. First losing Uncle Gary and then losing the opportunity to bring my baby boy home has left me reeling and angry and questioning. We are packing up and heading out for a long 4 day weekend. I hope to come home refreshed and re-energized and a bit more capable of handling whatever comes our way next week.