My uncle passed away. He was a funny (French)man. He liked to make things, to take things apart and build them back together again. He loved dogs, and they loved him. He loved his wife, and he was the love of her life. He drank and smoked far too much, and his body eventually paid the price.
The first time I drank champagne was at my uncle and aunt’s wedding. His boxer was the first puppy dog to melt my heart. I will never forget my aunt floating down the sidewalk declaring “life is beautiful” on a beautiful, sunny day. While he is in some of my happiest childhood memories in Paris, I never really knew my uncle. You see he didn’t speak English, and I don’t speak French. However, I will never forget his infectious laugh and his joie de vivre.
I will never forget my aunt’s heart-breaking sobs over my uncle’s dead body. Her whimpers could have broken the hardest of hearts. It is the trouble with loving someone so passionately, the pain of losing them is unbearable. I think we all felt her loss that day.
We travelled from London, Berlin and Brussels to Paris, to come together as a family. Me, my mum, my dad, my stepmom and two out of three brothers. We were there to remember my uncle but mostly we were there for my dad.
My uncle was my dad’s little brother. My grandparents passed away years ago. And now his brother was gone too. I grieved for my dad from the second I found out my uncle had died. His petit frère.
Like so many, our family is made up of several families, but unlike most ours works. We are a close family, even if we are spread far and wide. My uncle dying was felt by us all, especially the pain it caused my dad.
My dad spoke in French at the funeral. I didn’t need to understand every word as he recounted his memories of his petit frère. I knew what he was saying as he struggled to compose himself throughout. Watching my daddy next to the coffin of his little brother was too sad for words.
It is the trouble with life, isn’t it. It has to end.
We left Paris, a little bit broken but a little bit closer, and went our separate ways.
Two days later I drove to work and started crying. I couldn’t stop. I felt run down. I was convinced that I had stressed myself out so much that I had made myself ill. I was so upset with myself. I had meditated, practiced yoga, eaten well and slept. I had looked after myself and yet suddenly there I was crying uncontrollably, feeling like crap.
It is my worst fear. To become mentally ill again.
As fate would have it the following day my mum called me to say she felt ill too. Our symptoms matched. As awful as it sounds I was so relived, grateful and happy all at once. I hadn’t made myself ill again. And then the reality set in. It was flu. Real-stay-in-bed-for-a-week-flu.
This is life. You can’t predict these things. Sad things happen. People die. People get hurt. People get sick.
All I keep thinking is “how the hell do people get through this with kids?”.
The answer is like everything else, you just get on with it.
You grieve. You support those you love. You look after yourself. You do the best you can.