Goodbye

By , Park Ridge, IL
No one knew. No one knew this internal battle I was facing within myself. My uncle was dying and no one knew how I felt about any of it. No one knew because I wouldn’t let anyone know. I kept it all inside. Not a drop of my feelings spilled out in front of my family, or anyone. I thought if I kept it all inside that it wouldn’t be real, that this wasn’t happening and that it would go away.
But it didn’t.
Pneumonia was killing my uncle. My uncle was a fighter. He had been his whole life. But he was losing this fight. When I went to visit him in the hospital with my family, I had to make a choice. Say goodbye to him or not. It should have been easy, right? A simple question with a simple answer.

But it was anything but simple.
I was told his body was big and bloated, like a balloon ready to pop. His tattoos stretched out across his body. He wasn’t my uncle. He wasn’t the funny person I knew. He wasn’t the crazy family member. He wasn’t the person who used to carry a beer everywhere he went. He wasn’t the person who lived on top of a steep hill in the small town of Ishpeming, Michigan. He wasn’t my uncle. I thought to myself, how could I say goodbye to someone who wasn’t my uncle?
I didn’t do it. I didn’t say goodbye. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t.
Saying goodbye would make it real and I didn’t want any of it to be real. I wanted all of it to be a big joke or a dream that I would wake up from, but that was too good to be true. While everyone else was saying their goodbyes, I sat in the waiting area trying not to let my feelings spill out. I remember my older cousins coming out of his room crying and at that moment I thought about how much I hated this place. Everything about it made me furious. The yellow chair I was sitting on, the flat screen T.V. with football on the screen, my family crying, my little cousin playing with her toys because she had no idea what was going on, everyone telling me it was going to be okay when it wasn’t, being the only family in the entire hospital, the hospital looking like a fancy resort and not a hospital, the smell of death in the air, the cold chill that wouldn’t leave my body. Everything made me want to scream. All this time I kept all of this inside. No one knew.
As we were leaving I remember thinking how I never want to deal with death again. I hated this feeling of absolute nothingness inside of me when there was so much there. I desperately wanted to do something, anything, to make it all better. But I knew nothing I did would keep my uncle alive or take the pain away from my family, and I hated that feeling. I felt so helpless and I didn’t know what to do, so I didn’t do anything. I kept quiet and to myself. I couldn’t share my feeling with anyone. I just couldn’t.
When we got back to my grandparent’s house my cousins, my siblings, and I went to the movies. We saw Eagle Eye. We were the only ones in the theater, just like at the hospital. It was like the world knew I wanted to be alone. I tried to focus on the movie and I did a good job of not thinking about the death that was soon to occur. Ever since that night Eagle Eye has always been one of my favorite movies, but I felt guilty enjoying the movie that night because I knew my uncle would never get to enjoy a movie again, or the popcorn, or the sticky floors of the theater, or the never-ending previews, or anything else in the world.
When we got home later that night we were told that he only had a short while left and that he would be gone in the next hour.
Poof. Gone. Forever. Just like that.
My grandparents had already left to say their final goodbye. I often find myself asking, “Would I have gone with them if I was home?” Sometime I say, “Of course I would” and other times I say, “Hell no.” I honesty don’t know what I would have done. I like to pretend that I would have had a boost of courage and go say goodbye, but then I remember why I didn’t in the first place.
Everyone was saying the man in that hospital room was my uncle, but somehow I didn’t believe that. He wasn’t my uncle. He wasn’t the funny person I knew. He wasn’t the crazy family member. He wasn’t the person who used to carry a beer everywhere he went. He wasn’t the person who lived on top of a steep hill in the small town of Ishpeming, Michigan.
He wasn’t my uncle.
I never had closure with him and I never will. I didn’t go to his funeral and I don’t visit his grave. I never got to say my goodbye but that was my choice. That summer day in Michigan I made my choice and I have to deal with that choice every day of my life. To this day no one knows how I felt about any of it. I didn’t want to cause even more of a burden on my family. It was easier to just keep it inside than to share it all with my family. I have never told anyone this before. I kept it all locked away, until now.





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