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Ode To James

I remember getting one phone call. That call changed my life. It was my mother telling me my uncle James, who had been sick with cancer, was dead. I saw my older sister collapse in tears as she spoke first. That’s what scared me. Elizabeth never cried; her tears were reserved for disasters. In retrospect I think this qualified. The worst was that I was just a little kid, seven or eight years old. But my uncle’s death will stick with me forever.

People say that I should have “gotten over it” by now. They say my grief has been unhealthily prolonged, that I’ll ruin myself if my pain lasts another second. Personally, I think my pain can last until it sputters, coughs, and dies with good riddance. I won’t try with all my being to expel it, though. Because I would rather feel remorse than I would emptiness. The people who think that I should “get over myself” and forget the pain of losing him need to believe. That pain will never subside and I will always suffer. It may even push me over the edge, but I know that it will all be okay because James is still alive in soul and spirit. When I think about him, it hurts, and that’s somewhat reassuring. It tells me that I haven’t forgotten him. When I think of people that have lost loved ones and say that they’re fine, I brand them as a liar. No one is completely fine after something like that and we all know it. We, as in the all of the people who have lost someone dear to us.

Uncle James was the nicest person imaginable. Apparently, everyone who met him loved him. He died when he was twenty-nine, thanks to cancer. He was the only uncle on my mom’s side, and the only uncle related to me through blood. He was lovable and loving, and I miss him, five years later. I miss him with every atom in my body. I wish he was still with us and sometimes I think he is. This may sound absolutely bonkers, but I’ve felt him near me in times of the most grief. In emotional turmoil, he’s right there next to me. He hasn’t left my family. I don’t think he could.

My uncle was the kind of person who would forgive and forget, but I have a hard time imagining him forgetting his family. He’s my guardian angel, my protector. He’s always there for me, either with his presence or his actions. I approach a problem and think, “what would uncle James do?”. Then I act like he would. I like to imagine him as proud. Proud of our accomplishments. Proud of our milestones. Proud of how we never forget him, and still manage to go on with our lives. He never leaves our minds.

When I think back to that call, five years ago, I feel a familiar pang. My brain wills me to erase that dreadful blemish in my memory bank, but I would never be able to, not in a million years. I know that memory is crucial because it helps me remember him. It’s awful. I can’t remember what he looked like at all. I forgot about a month after he died. I don’t remember who he was, how he acted, what his voice sounded like, nothing. That’s why I promised he would never leave my thoughts. I won’t let anything else slip under the dark satin veil of death. The Grim Reaper won’t steal anything else about him away from me.

It’s like pouring poison into a wound when I think about how young he was. He didn’t get a chance to live. Apparently, he got sick a lot as a kid. And that led to cancer and him not celebrating his 30th birthday. I hate cancer. I would donate every penny I’m worth to finding the cure if I knew that they actually spent the money on that, which I doubt. I hate that cancer exists in the first place. I have a picture of him on my desk, and you can see how weary he looks, how much he was struggling inside, even though he put on a happy face and made himself look brave.

Uncle James was the strongest fighter I’ve ever seen. He’s braver than a soldier marching off into battle, because he fought so hard to make himself seem okay, even when he knew he was dying. He wouldn’t let anyone see him suffer. His body struggled against the disease that tore him apart inside, yet I could barely tell. He loved his family so much that he couldn’t bear for them to see what he felt inside. Likewise, his family loved him so much they couldn’t bear to see his pain. In the end, he couldn’t fight anymore, and like the bravest soldier, he let himself slip away. I wasn’t there, but I like to imagine that he went with a smile.

At his funeral, people shared so many stories of how wonderful my uncle was. They talked about how James helped them out when they needed it; they talked about how he was always there, and how he was so willing to lend anyone a hand. I remember my youngest aunt sharing a story about how they were both jumping on their bed in excitement when my sister Elizabeth was born. The story has always touched me because it just shows how much he valued family.

My uncle was one of the bravest, strongest, friendliest, and most loving people I have ever met. I miss him dearly and I wish I was able to spend more time than I did with him. When he died we got a star named after him, and I bet that’s where he is right now. I just wish he was on Earth, with us.




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