RIP Uncle Robert
On October 29th, 2020, my uncle Robert Thorn, one of my mother’s brothers, died of Stage 4 colon cancer. For the past few weeks, he had been in and out and then in hospitals for various health reasons; urinary infection, kidney infection, brain infection and a blood clot in his lungs. The first time he got out of the hospital he seemed normal but a little off. Given his age and his other health issues, which included diabetes, that was to be expected.
Finding out he had a terminal case of colon cancer was not something I or anyone in the family on my mother’s side expected. A few associates of the family knew variations of what he was going through, but not that what he had was terminal. Although he was aware of his grave condition, he did not put together a will nor did I think to ask if he had one.
My uncle was a very private person; if you asked him how he was doing, he would tell you he was alright and that was the extent of it. We would talk about things here and there, but not too deep. I would sometimes mention how hard the loss of my parents has been on me but he would always come back to the notion that no matter what comes my way that I would be alright. For the most part since his passing, I have been.
Part of that is that I feel that our family tends to compartmentalize any traumas or life events into little corners of our brains. These spaces allow us to visit those moments when necessary without allowing them to overwhelm us. It also means that we can treat those situations as another thing that happens in life.
This method helps us survive, but not feel.
The feelings about the loss of my parents and of my uncle come out in random ways; I somehow spend a lot of my time obsessing over David Tennant’s regeneration scene in his final episode where he gets to be sent off with a glorious over-the-top orchestra piece in his spaceship safe from the miserable confines of earth and away from The Master and his Timelord family. In the show’s history, this is one of the rare moments where a transitional period of its main character bares no witness; The Doctor literally is alone to his fate with no way to stop it; the “it” here that I am referring to? Death.
My father’s passing in 2016 was a weird one. I was in the middle of making dinner and found myself totally fucking that up. I went to bed either before or after making dinner and found myself awake in the evening. I went to check on him and felt immediately something was wrong when I didn’t hear any breathing sounds.
His eyes were open. His mouth was open. His stare was literally at the ceiling.
I let my mother know. I called the hospice service that worked with his while we were providing care for him at home and they had asked if we had prepared a service to come pick his body up. Much like with my uncle, we found out my father had stage 4 colon cancer literally as he was going through the final months of his life. The shock, the stress of handling him in an eventual immobilized state and general depression made any preparation for a death hard to focus on.
A name of a service was dropped by the hospice service. I made the call and made the arrangements and paid for them to come out to get the body and cremate it. I called my father’s only brother and let him know that he passed and that he was being cremated.
After all of that, I pretty much went back to work. I did the same thing when my mother passed and I did the same thing when my uncle passed. Had I not used my PTO all up, I would have probably been able to take a Friday off each week until it ran out like some of my co-workers have been able to do. Companies tend to get concerned when your PTO runs low and you need extra things like FMLA or Bereavement.
Given those offer very limited tend to prepare any funeral services or time to grieve, it’s a wonder they are even offered in the first place. Any employee, even with any amount of preparation, is not going to be the same after they lose someone. The FMLA and Beravement laws should be extended to allow someone enough time to grieve.
Simply giving someone a day or a mere two weeks isn’t enough in my opinion. I however don’t make the laws, I simply do the best I can to obey them and understand them and understand that thou they are created for the intended purpose of benefiting you as an individual, the companies don’t often honor them halfway. Basically death in Corporate America is not there problem and you simply need to just eat crow and deal with it.
Since so much death has surrounded this world due to COVID, I wonder if FMLA and Beravement should be re-examined. People who actually die of COVID don’t get to have the goodbye that I have and it’s wrong to expect them to patch up their emotions and get back to the rat race without any processing time.
This is a topic I feel should be discussed on this blog and will probably be something I look into as a natural and personal curiosity of mine.
In the meantime, RIP Uncle Robert. Say hi to Mom for me.