The Last

My great, great aunt and uncle would always express to my family, they didn’t know where they would be without us. “ We are so lucky to have all of you in our lives.” 

 

We were all they had, but that was enough. They didn't have any children of their own. We were their only family, and my aunt and uncle always said how lucky they were to have us.


My aunt and uncle were married for 73 years. Think about that.


A party, yes, the last memory of my great great uncle was a party in March of last year. This night isn’t a sad memory, but one that makes me smile.


He was 95 and my aunt, his wife, passed away two months prior. We put my uncle in an assisted living and visited him all the time. My whole family loved both of them very much, and even though he never said it, we knew that he was hurting without her.


My grandparents were hosting the party. You could smell the food that my grandmother was cooking, and see the adults congregating in the kitchen.


My cousins, all under four, were in the play room with the toys passed down from the older grandkids.


I walked over and met my uncle in the kitchen where he was watching all of the cousins play.  He shook my hand with his strong grip, holding my hand for a long time before letting go. We stood in silence watching the kids play.
He and my great great aunt had nicknames for all of us. Mine was Scholar, my brother, Dom’s was Dominator and my other brother Luca’s was Muscle Man. We always had these nicknames ever since we were little. They were written on all the cards filled with tokens of money they gave to us, and under the heartfelt messages they wrote.
My uncle called us our respective nicknames.


His voice is still familiar in my head. He said his famous quote, “What A Country” in his booming voice that automatically made you feel at home.


My uncle fought in the Navy during World War ll. He fought for this country, therefore, he always showed his respect for it and the people that fought for it. My uncle always said that he wasn’t one of the heroes. We shouldn’t make a big deal about him being in the war. He wasn’t a hero, the heroes were the ones that didn’t come home.


That was just the person he was. Always proving to be the best example and showing us how to live our lives in the most respectful and accepting way.


They used to always share their secrets for living a long, happy, life together.


Respect for one another; something we can all learn from.


My aunt and uncle always knew how to find joy in the little things. We believe this is because they didn’t focus on the downs of life, but on something that can keep them happy all of the time, the little ups.


We sat at the long dinner table and talked while we ate. We talked about, Dom's, basketball game that we had watched earlier that day. Looking back, it was meant to be. We got to spend the whole weekend with him, his last weekend.


It was a peaceful night with laughter bouncing off the walls surrounding the highchairs full of toddlers and a 95 year old man who lived a life that I can only dream of living.


The night ended with a tv show cuddled up on the couch next to my cousins. It was time for my grandfather to drive my uncle back to the assisted living and to say our goodbyes.


He gave me a hug and a kiss, the last hug and kiss.


I wish I held onto him longer, told him how much he meant to me, how he could never be replaced, how much he had taught me. However, I know he knew. From the endless amount of phone calls that ended with, “you know that we will always love you, right?” To which we answered, “of course, you know that we will, yes.”


It’s not possible, it could never really happen. Somehow they would just live forever. How could one day they just not be there anymore? No more phone calls about our report cards, ice cream money, notes signed with perfect cursive or walks downtown to their favorite stores. Deep down I still have them. They will live forever inside of me.


He passed away the next Monday, peacefully in his sleep.


This came as a surprise to all of us. Although this is better than someone suffering through an illness for a long time, the suddenness of it all made it even more sad.


That Friday we had his funeral.


My brothers and I didn’t go to school that day, but instead went to honor a man we loved.


We pulled into the parking lot and realized it was the same place we had my aunt's funeral a few months earlier.
The men there parked our car so that we would follow everyone to the cemetery after the funeral. My family got out of the car and stood in the entrance of the funeral home. We met the rest of my family and walked in.
My eyes were down at my feet when it was time to pay my respects to my uncle.
Silence.


It was a different room than the one for my aunt’s funeral. It had its own little hallway connecting it to the entrance.


The room was scattered with different photos of my aunt and uncle. They didn’t want it to be just about themselves, but the both of them. So the cards we handed out had a picture of both of them. They were young in the photo, at my grandparents wedding.


I don't remember my thoughts in that moment as everyone sat in the rows of chairs.


Silence.


The chairs would be rearranged soon for the next grieving family. Then after all of the families folded up for the night as if nothing had happened. As if this day and the funeral of my aunt and uncle had not been burned into my brain.


I will cherish the memories of them and those days, seeing them for the last time. These two funerals did not feel like just another day to me. It was the last times I would get to see two people that meant so much to me.
It hurt me watching my family members walk in and cry, weep for all the memories they had and think the question, how will they go on.


Those were the only two funeral I’ve gone to.


My great grandmother passed away when I was young, too young to feel the emotions that I did when my aunt and uncle passed away.


We all loved both of them very much, and me being the oldest of my generation got to know them the best. That is something that I am forever grateful for.


Never will I forget the nicknames they called me, the lessons they taught me, and the unconditional love that they showed to all of us.


They were truly wonderful people.


My aunt and uncle would say to my family, that they don’t know where they would be without us. Now after all of it is over I want to say that we, were the lucky ones.  We got to have them in our lives and learn from them. Their lessons will be taught to the generations of the future. Thank you Aunty Rose and Uncle Gene. You will be forever missed.






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