Tuesday, October 23, 2007


And so it goes.

My uncle Billy died yesterday. My mother's little brother, the youngest of six North Carolina-born children. The second sibling to die.

Emphysema became his final partner; he welcomed her into his life along with his cigarettes, his comfortably unhealthy eating habits, his laborious struggle to breathe. She hobbled with him to the end of his life on earth.

Mom and Dad were in North Carolina. They headed to the beach as soon as the opthamologist released Dad to travel while he waited for his new 'fake eye' (so deliberately and delicately put by the doctors), never anticipating that it would be for a funeral. After talking with Billy Saturday, his siblings agreed that he needed to go to the hospital. He had trouble breathing. He was not well.

Mom went to see him Sunday. She called afterwards and said, "He keeps talking about dying. I just remember when Mama was sick and I didn't go to see her. I went to see him."

I know she's glad she did. He died last night.

A career Navy man, Billy wasn't married. He lived alone, surrounded by his sisters and brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews. He loved to fish and to walk the beach looking for treasure with his metal detector. He was a great cook; I have rich memories of our summer vacations when he would show up with piles of shrimp and crab, or spicy ribs, all for a familial feast.

I didn't know him well; I didn't know his heart, his soul, his deepest desires, his sorrows and joys. He was just my uncle, a constant presence in my life since my earliest memories of trips to North Carolina. He was my mom's little brother.

I will travel Thursday, taking appropriate clothes for the service to Mom and Dad, reuniting with my cousins to celebrate this life. It will serve as another marker to the fragility of life, to the solidity of family, to the imprint one soul has on the world he inhabits, however briefly.


annie said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. He sounds like a very special and well loved man.

SpookyRach said...

so sorry to hear about your uncle. Isn't it amazing how little we know about our families sometimes?

(just wanted you to know your comment on my blog reeeeaally cracked me up. :) )

Jayne said...

You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers Beth. May light perpetual shine upon Billy for all his days. Hugs to you.

Mary said...

His disease is exhausting - my Mom struggled to breathe for years until one day in May she gave up.

I'll be thinking of you, Beth. Have a safe trip. God Bless him.

Hope said...

Death is never easy to deal with. Praying for you and your family.

Rainbow dreams said...

am thinking of you and your family Beth, x

KGMom said...

A bittersweet post--when family members die, we rally around, reminisce and support each other.
I trust that will be your experience.
May your memories be sweet.

Jim said...

Thanks, Beth. I enjoyed the way you told this poignant story. You are right that each soul imprints this world. I hope Billy understood his valuable place in the family.

Africakid said...

You wrote a nice tribute to your Uncle Billy. I liked hearing how he'd "show up with piles of shrimp and crab or spicy ribs" for your family vacations.