The inevitable final, slow tick of the clock can be so strange. It can happen suddenly with a clock that everyone thought was in such good shape and had so much time. It can happen tragically to a brand new, little clock spared the pain of attachment but already attached to by those who bought and expected it home. It can happen to an antique clock that everyone complimented for holding up so well, when we all expected it to stop ticking long ago. And it can happen to that clock we've had for years that's a bit beat up and gets stuck from time to time, but is no less for the wear.
But whenever that chime sounds, we can never really be sure what sound will progress out of it. Talking could resume, crying could commence or silence could descend like a heavy blanket. When my uncle passed away a little over a week ago, I was saddened as the final chime sounded. For a few minutes after hearing the news, I laid in bed quietly, trying to decipher how I should feel, how I should react. I hadn't seen him in a while, but I remembered all too well his sometimes unruly gray hair and the way he'd say from the screen door "let my baby out so I can see her" when my dad and I would drive by to say hello. He'd pat my equally as unruly hair down on my head, talk of "how pretty his little niece was" and plant a gentle kiss on my forehead. It didn't matter how not-little I became, this was the ritual; it was always the ritual. And it saddened me that something I'd taken for granted as for always wasn't anymore. But that's how it is for all of us, right? We realize the things we take for granted just as soon as we aren't granted the comfort of them anymore.
I went about my day pretty normally. From time to time, I'd catch my reflection in a mirror or a storefront window, and notice that my eyes were moist, but I was okay. Yet, there was this weird sadness I felt in my chest, almost like choking on a ball of tears. My uncle was the first of my dad's siblings that I remembered losing. My eldest aunt passed away when I was much younger, but my uncle was the first I'd lost as an adult. And perhaps, to some that wouldn't make a difference, but to me, it did. When we are children, we think of our parents as these invincible superheroes. As far as I'm concerned, my dad is still nothing less than superman, but last week, I was confronted with the idea that he is mortal no matter how much it may seem otherwise. As I get older, so does he, and before you know it, our parents are well past middle-aged. To us, they are the same parents who can run around shopping with us or cook family dinner every Sunday, but as they inch past 60 and nearer to 70, events occur that force us to acknowledge the years gone by. Sometimes health issues creep in, and sometimes the birth of a grandchild makes you realize the passage of time. And sometimes, the death of someone so close in age to your parents can make you painfully aware of just how fragile life is. And so, as I remembered my dad's brother, I thought about my dad, not much younger than him, and was forced to recall that he can't be with me forever no matter how much I wish it differently.
As I sat in the pew of the funeral home surrounded by my family and watching others come to express their condolences, I watched my eyes bounce from one family member to the next. Eyes that I frequently cursed in the mirror for being too small or too dark. Many of us have such similar facial features, something that gets overlooked, at least by me. Most of us have those same expressive, almond-shaped eyes. Eyes that betray our emotions and put on display whether we are happy or angered or frustrated. Or sad. As I looked around, I saw a dozen sad eyes. And although this should've upset me further, I smiled at my aunt who was seated the furthest away from me but staring at me with a tight (perhaps even forced) grin. Our eyes were sad and our hearts heavy, but we were together and that made me smile.
Losing someone is weird.