I had plans for what I wanted to write about this week that have all faded into the Louisiana breeze. Instead, I am in New Orleans for the passing of our Uncle Lloyd.
He died last night. It was Wednesday, sunny and 72, clear blue skies, low humidity, a gentle breeze that passed through Uncle Joe’s backyard and over our Baby Girl who was taking an afternoon nap on the back porch in her stroller.
Uncle Lloyd had the sweetest smile. He smiled every time we saw him, and you could hear his smile through the phone, too. I met him when Charlie and I traveled together and stayed at Sweet Uncle Lloyd’s place in New Orleans. Charlie and I called him often to check in on him.
“I just don’t think I called him enough,” Charlie said to me this morning.
“There is no ‘enough’,” I said.
I don’t know all Uncle Lloyd’s stories, but I know this – he loved my husband and my sister-in-law Marian, the only two children, the twins, of his twin brother who passed ahead of him almost twenty years ago.
When we got the call on Tuesday, we moved fast. We booked plane tickets. I packed diapers and frozen breastmilk and clothes for Charlie, clothes he would look good in at Uncle Lloyd’s bedside and clothes that would be good for the more formal service to come. Marian flew in from Dallas.
When we arrived, Uncle Joe, who hadn’t slept in three days, had to leave to pick up Uncle Lloyd’s sister, Margaret, from the airport. Suddenly, for about an hour, it was just Marian, Charlie, me and our baby girl, sitting next to sweet and quiet Uncle Lloyd.
“We’re here,” Marian said. “We’re here now. It’s me, Marian. And Charlie is here. And Brent is here…”
“And we brought your great niece,” I offered in a quiet voice. “She’s getting bigger every day. We brought her here to meet you.”’
It’s hard to know what to do, how it’s supposed to feel, when someone you love dies. I keep thinking of going into the temples in Thailand, taking off our shoes, unfamiliar of the ceremonies, the sacraments, simply watching others, looking for signs of when to bow, how to sit, in awe, quiet. Death feels like this, like we should take our shoes off now. There’s a feeling when you enter the holy places you’ve never imagined, how lucky, privileged, you feel to attend something so sacred, the awakening of things in your soul, the reverence you understood in principle but feel suddenly in your heart opening like a flower.
Through death the people we love give us this amazing gift – they go before us, open up a door and let us see the holy place, a pierce of light that is so startling, awe full, divine.
This morning, Charlie and I sat down to coffee and breakfast in a cafe down the street from the apartment we’re renting.
“I just can’t believe it happened. I thought we would have a few more days,” he said. I picked up our baby from the stroller, sat her on the edge of the table. She leaned into me, rested her head against my chest.
“I keep thinking about what you wrote,” Charlie said. “When you said, about the miracle, when our girl was born, you said, ‘She wasn’t here and then she was here. She wasn’t and then she was.
“Except, this, with Uncle Lloyd, this is the reverse. It’s the same thing, but the other way.”
We’re heading back to Uncle Joe’s soon. It’s another sunny Louisiana morning, just like yesterday but different.