My uncle died last week. He was 80, but it still came as a shock to everyone. I was not very close to him, but I was sad for my aunt, and for my cousin who has Down’s Syndrome. They would feel this loss most acutely.
I had decided to have The Boy attend school as usual, as he didn’t really know this uncle of mine, and missing school is a catastrophe. Better that I go with my parents, and arrange for Fantastic Babysitter to pick him up from kids club so that we wouldn’t have to worry about making it back in time. Mom and I sat in the family section off to the side, while Dad sat with his sister, who wanted and needed him by her side. I had a clear view of her and my cousin, and as the funeral went on, I witnessed her grief ebb and flow, and then I watched as my cousin just lost it. I’m not sure if this was the first time it really hit him how final this was, but he was inconsolable. And I watched my aunt abandon her own grief, with eyes only for her son. At one point, she switched spots with another son so that she could sit next to him, and hold him. He was instantly better, and the two of them were able to share their grief and their comfort in each other. It was sad, and yet beautiful.
My aunt has been a special needs parent for almost 50 years, and I realized that day what an inspiration she has been for me, since I have taken on that role. My dad’s brother turned to me at the end of the funeral and told me how proud he was of me, and how strong I was to raise my son on my own. All I could say was “Thank you,” and look to my mom, and my aunt. We Tough Cookies are not just born that way. We are inspired.