Silent House :: A Tribute to My Relatives

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I am fortunate enough to know many of my cousins on my Mom’s side of the family. I know and I consider myself close to my Aunts, Uncles, 1st cousins, 2nd cousins, 3rd cousins, etc. Before dying, my Great Aunts, Great Uncles, and Grand Parents were part of my life, too.

A little family history for you – my grandmother had a brother. My grandmother and her brother got married (to different people – not each other), had kids, and grew older. Then my grandmother’s brother died. Then my grandmother died. Years later, their spouses ended up marrying each other after their death.  So, my 2nd cousins became Step-Aunts and Step-Uncles. Pretty neat, eh?

::

Last Spring, I started exercising regularly. My boss gave me her old iPhone to use as an iPod. Access to music while walking not only increased my distance, but the music increased my speed, too.

One song I listened to over and over again was Silent House by The Dixie Chicks. The song speaks to the pain and sorrow that is felt when a family member is mentally slipping away from us as they battle Dementia or Alzheimers.

Now the motivation behind the exercising was to get in shape for our family trip to the Shore in Nova Scotia. I was going to see my Aunts, Uncles, cousins, and friends – folks I had not seen in several years.

Summer 2012 was a special summer, because my Mom was celebrating her 80th birthday, and my Uncle, one of my Mom’s brothers, was probably going to experience the Shore for the last time. You see,  my Uncle has Alzheimers.

So, while exercising and getting into shape for our trip, I was thinking about my Uncle and looking forward to the time I was going to spend with him. When the song Silent House played, I started writing a post in my head about my Uncle and “Step-Aunt”, who is battling Dementia.

Inspired and motivated, I contacted my cousins, and I asked them to send me pictures of my Aunt and Uncle, so I could put together a video. I received the pictures, and I started writing.

Then I stopped. It was time to head to the Shore and spend time with family.

People at Amherst Shore 2012 (364)The summer at the Shore was beyond special. Everyone there made a point to milk every moment for all it’s worth. At 3pm every day, my Uncle would sit out on the deck of “The Big White Cottage”. The instant he came out, the crowds started to gather. All of us – sitting together, enjoying the time – together. My “Step Aunt’ joined us, too, always sitting next to my Uncle. This time was precious – bittersweet – wonderful.

When my summer vacation ended and I returned home, I was saddened by the sense of loss already filling the air. The sadness weighed heavily on me, so I put the post on the shelf. I was no longer motivated to share – to remember – to pay tribute.

::

Fast forward to today. My Uncle is now in a VA Hospital where he will spend his final days. *He may have days left, he may have weeks left, or he may have months left. No one really knows. All we know is the fact that before slipping away mentally, he let his feelings known about resuscitation and feeding tubes, not wanting either one.  So he lies in waiting, so to speak.  He is bedridden, with an IV and receiving small doses of morphine.

When he was admitted to this form of hospice, Facebook lit up with pictures of him. My siblings, my cousins, we all posted our favorite pictures of our Uncle/Dad/Cousin. After all, this man is a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a great grandfather. This man has lived, camped, hiked, built cabins, built bridges, played sports, etc.

The pictures relighted the spark in my heart. It was time to get the post written, and it was time to put the video together.

It is time to try to connect all the pieces you left. It is time to carry it on and let you forget. We’ll remember the years when your mind was clear – how your laughter and life filled up what will become this silent house.

Thank you, Uncle D and “Step Aunt” M, for everything.

* Uncle D passed away around 6pm ET today, February 8th.

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32 thoughts on “Silent House :: A Tribute to My Relatives

  1. Lenore, the time, thought, and love that you put into the slideshow comes through so brilliantly! It is fabulous. But that last photo, of your uncle in bed, really got me- left me in a puddle of tears. You see, that’s my last memory of my Dad: looking old and frail, in bed. And Dad passed almost a year ago, on Feb 12.

    What a gift this video is for your family.

    • I am sorry, Susan. That picture was taken by my Uncle’s daughter. While it is sad to see my Uncle looking frail, I find strength in the love that is clear between my Uncle and his wife (my Aunt). As I said to someone, that particular picture breaks my heart and fills it up all at the same time.
      My Dad died Feb 5th over 10yrs ago. Still makes me sad. Find strength in the happy memories, Susan. Remember the time when his mind was clear, and how his laughter and life filled the house.

    • Susan, after I replied to your comment, I had a conversation with myself. I realized, while reading your comment, the day my Dad died came and went without me noticing. I mentioned he died over 10yrs ago – well, he died over 20yrs ago. And I realized today – the day he died passes without me noticing sometimes.
      But the day he was born never passes by without me noticing. I smiled to myself when I realized that – because I remember the day he began life, and I forget the day he lost life.
      I remember the 1yr anniversary of my Dad’s death. The sting is still present and painful. The tears still flow easily. It’s OK. This year, when your Dad’s birthday comes – I hope you remember to really celebrate the life he lived. Hugs to you.

  2. My goodness, Lenore. You put so much heart and work into this post. It is a wonderful family tribute. The slide show is just fabulous. Kudos. You have memories to last a life time for everyone.
    Blessings ~ Maxi

    • It took almost a year to put together, Maxi, due to the emotions. Well worth it, though. He deserves nothing but the best. This video will provide comfort to many, as we are reminded of his smile and the life he lived so well. Blessings to you, too.

    • Thank you, Oma. I was being sad when I read your tweet about Tuna man. Looks like we both had a challenging day. *sigh*
      Uncle D was an incredible man. Really. The family dynamic has changed forever with his passing. Stinks. Like tuna. 😉

  3. I saw your tweet just now. I’m so sorry for your loss, especially coming so close to losing Walter. I know the feeling of knowing that it’s coming, but still being surprised and heartbroken. Your uncle was loved – it’s clear in every picture I saw and in every word you wrote. My heart goes out to you and your family.

    This one really hit home for me. I confess that I couldn’t make it all the way through the video. It was too much for the moment, but it’s a goal of mine to come back when I’m ready and see it through. I’d already been thinking of my own father a lot lately. His birthday is in February, the 23rd. He would have been 97. Instead of his decline from Alzheimer’s or his death, however, I’ve been remembering the same thing for the past 3 weeks since I started this new semester with its early mornings that I’m still not accustomed to. When I was just out of college and working a temp job, I had to leave for work very early. My father was always awake before me, and as I got ready, he would go to the kitchen, make me coffee and a bagel, and have them waiting for me when I came down to leave the house – the coffee in a travel mug and the bagel, still hot, wrapped in a napkin. Every single morning. I’ll never forget it as long as I live.

    *hugs*

    • Your memory of your father brings tears to my eyes, Leonore. What a treasure.

      February is not a great month for us. We lost my Dad in February over 20rys ago. A week after he died, his Mom died. (True story.) Now, my Uncle is gone. And of course, we have not forgotten Walter, who had to be different and die in November. (Always going against the grain. Such a rebel.)

      I am glad you can celebrate the birth of your father this month. I hope you continue to find comfort in the memories and the life he lived well, before his mind was taken from him.

      Funny. You and I enjoy photography. We like to capture the memories so we can forget.

      Thank you for the kind words and hugs, Leonore. I’m hugging you right back.

    • Thank you, Georgette. I had no idea my Uncle would die the day I posted the video. I’m still in shock. However, I am grateful we have the video. It seems to have provided a great deal of comfort to my family of cousins, and that means the world to me. It gives us all a chance to ‘see’ him when he was vibrant and full of life. A treasure for certain.

  4. Timing is one of the great mysteries. You were supposed to do this now…somehow you knew. Faith that can’t be seen, but a faith you know is there. And you will always remember it happened this way. Hugs again.

  5. What a beautiful, heartfelt, lasting gift you’ve given the family and yourself. That last photo of the 2 of them together? I see recognition, tenderness and enduring love. Just beautiful.

    So sorry for your loss.
    MJ

    • Their daughter took that picture, MJ. Including it in the video a tough call, because his appearance had changed so much. But, their love?! As strong as ever. As I’ve said in a previous comment, the photo breaks my heart and fills my heart all at the same time.
      Thank you for your words.

  6. This touched me deeply. We share similar experiences and feelings about the time we were given to say goodbye to a loved one. Beautiful tribute—thank you for sharing it. Peace to you and your family.

    • Thanks, SIG. We are sad he is no longer with us, but we are grateful he did not spend years in a sad state. As sad and painful as loss is – when the illness is terminal, quicker is better, I think.

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