This event occurred May 28, 2013, the summer after my senior year of high school. Summer had just begun and I was back to doing my normal summer routine- working as a lifeguard at the local pool and spending time with friends and family. May 28th was a special day for our family, considering it was my sister-in-law’s birthday and usually fell around Memorial Day Weekend. My family of six, my uncle, my grandma, and my sister-in-law and her parents had planned to have a big family dinner that evening at my grandma’s house in Denver.
I was planning on arriving late because I had to finish a life guarding shift before I could head over. When I pulled into my grandma’s driveway, my dad was waiting my arrival to pass on some very bad news. They had not heard from my Uncle Billy in a few days (which was odd because he called or saw my grandma every day because they lived in the same neighborhood). My mom and dad went over to check on him before the party began. What they found out was very, very troubling. Uncle Billy had passed away at age 52 due to a severe and unexpected heart attack the previous night.
The new absence of my uncle affected me in two main ways.
My uncle had no children and was not married, therefore my family, with four kids was basically his family. He spent majority of his time and every holiday with my family. It was never a surprise to have him over at dinner or to randomly receive gifts or cards form him if he couldn’t make a family event. While he was around, I had never really realized how much he added to our family gatherings. It all just seemed normal at the time, but after he had passed there was a certain lack of personality and chaos within our family. Instead of four dogs at the house majority of the time, there were only three, instead of a bunch of pranks and joking around there was somberness, and other little things missing because of his absence were constantly running through my mind. Its was a very long mourning process for my family.
Another thought came to my mind regarding the absence of Uncle Billy- my mom. Her father had died when I was four and now with the loss of her brother, the only person that remained within her immediate family were her and my grandma. This was a very alarming thought to me considering I come from a family of six, which has even been extended by nieces and grandparents on my father’s side. The thought of only having one other family member was very foreign and hard for me to deal with.
Realizing how much someone has added to situations and my life after they are gone has changed me. Now when a person adds something to a situation, whether it be a funny, smart, or endearing comment, I always make note of it. Even in classes when I don’t know someone but they add valuable information to the lecture I remember them and the information. I have been inclined to appreciate every little gesture and conversation that impacts on me and I often think how different a dinner, a class, an apartment complex, etc. would be changed without certain people in them. I have also analyzed how I can make a meaningful impact on others and I try to live my life in a way to emphasize that in every situation possible.
The value of family has increased in my life since this event as well. I often took for granted the time I spent with my family, and even the fact that I had such a large family in the first place. I never appreciated how much time and how close I was with my immediate family or thought of a future time where we may not all be around. I take family into consideration with every aspect of my life now- where I want to live, what I want to do, and even who I spend my time with because I realized how important they are to me.