Dear Uncle J, your presence taught me a lesson


Arpita Das

A picture of me and my uncle, and all of his favorite things.

Dear Uncle J, 

It has now been 164 days since your passing, and the only thing I can say is that I wish I could’ve seen you one last time. Every time you would come visit us, it would always be a surprise, but every moment we shared was always filled with happiness and memories that I will forever cherish. 

Whenever we’d greet you at the door, you would give us a hug to show your appreciation and would never stop bringing gifts. You would always come in with the coolest socks; there was one time I remember when you got me a pair of plaid orange and grey socks just so I could match you. If there was one thing that we shared in common, it’s that we have both had operations at some point in our lives. I had back surgery, and you had knee surgery. The time I had surgery was when I had been in the hospital for a week. You had drove an hour from Lansing to Grand Rapids every day just to see me, which is a memory that will never be forgotten. 

The day you left is simply a day I will never forget. It was 5 p.m. on a sunny afternoon, and I was at work. When I came home, my parents were nowhere to be seen, and only my grandma and sister were there. I was watching the show The End of The World, and my parents said they had left town to get the van repaired. I didn’t have any second thoughts. 

When I found out about your passing, I cried until I got a headache, but that wasn’t even the hardest part; the day of your ceremony was. I kept telling myself that this would be a “walk in the park” and that you would suddenly just wake up, and this would all be a nightmare that we would wake up from. But that couldn’t have been farther from the truth. You were gone, and that was that. 

The blank expressions of sadness and remorse projected around everyone in the room told me everything that I needed to know. You were no ordinary uncle. You were the uncle that loved telling everyone about your traveling adventures, reading books, and writing letters to people. It was almost like you were a more studious version of my dad. But unlike my dad, you smiled more often and had this sort of smirk that reminded everyone of your kindness. 

The blank expressions of sadness and remorse projected around everyone in the room told me everything that I needed to know. You were no ordinary uncle.

Sports were never your thing, and chess was the only board game you could play, so I learned the game just to compete against you. Your favorite Starbucks drink was the Tall Pike because you would never take any drink with sugar in it, and you always loved to visit coffee shops.

If my mom hadn’t called you to come spend Christmas with us, I don’t know what I would’ve done. We didn’t want you to feel lonely, so we invited you to have dinner with us and watch the news. You never had anything to complain about and would never stop going on and on about how delicious my mom’s food was, but I can’t say I’m surprised. You are my dad’s brother, and he is the same way. 

If there’s anything I’ve learned from your passing, it’s that the pain never really goes away and that death is a different pain that everyone experiences. I regret the fact that I never returned your call, but I think that if you were still alive, you would say this: you would want me to be happy and to continue educating myself even though you wouldn’t be alive to see me thrive. You’d want me to continue playing chess and drinking coffee but most importantly, find joy through it all. 

Although the start of my sophomore year had a rocky start, I am lucky that I got to know you for as long as I could. You always said it’s better to know more than one language, so I continued to learn French in honor of you. Your wisdom encouraged me to take an advanced history course, and your letters inspired me to join a writing class. 

What hurts most is that I’ll never be able to see you again, play another game of chess, or drink coffee with you because life is irreversible. But if there’s anything that I’ve learned, it’s that I really need to start finding appreciation in the people I surround myself with for as long as I can. Because anything can happen.