A Lament to the Patriarch

I studied English Literature at the University of Toronto– I spent four years writing about the sorrows and griefs of long dead white men, and I loved it all. I’ve always thought, that if money were not in question, if I could do anything, I would write all day, in a house on a lake with a rickety wrap around porch in a cardigan and thick rimmed bifocals and a bottomless cup of steaming cocoa. I digress.

One type of writing that we so often analyzed was a lamentation– a lament or lamentation is a passionate expression of grief, usually born of regret or mourning. Laments are some of the oldest styles of writing, and is one of the only style of writing that is found in every single culture.

This brings me to the point of this post– our uncle passed away recently. We had the great honour of designing the florals we sent to his viewing, and subsequently, his burial. This is an easy task to outsource, I know, but there is something comforting in doing it ourselves; about telling him we couldn’t give you much, but we made you these.

Our uncle is first generation Canadian, he was the first of our name to come to this country so so many years ago. Slowly, a whole bunch of us followed. He established a church here, a thriving business, a beautiful family and even more beautiful grandchildren. He married here, found success here, represented our home here, supported his family from here. My uncle did what many could not– he created a life for himself, not one that was handed to him. He worked his entire life, until finally, our family’s tragic flaw came for him too. We are genetically predisposed to cancer– pancreatic, lung, kidney, protastic, breast– we are riddled with chance and excited cells idling by until they are called upon. He joins his father, sisters, my mother, his uncles, cousins– the numbers are staggering; but they are all there, waiting for him.

A couple of days after my uncle passed, I had a dream. I was walking out of the hospital where he was being cared for prior to his final hospice center, and I turned a corner to a cemetery I had never been to before. Not far away, there was a man sitting on a bench, parallel to an empty grave. I approached the man and sat next to him. He started talking to me, pointing at the grave, making casual conversation. I sat with him for what felt like forever, I sat with him like I knew him. My soul knew him, for certain. I felt a familiar comfort with him that kept me on that bench, kept us chatting. I knew that the grave had been dug for my uncle, and for whatever reason, I know that the gentleman was my grandfather. He and I have never met– he passed away when my father was twenty seven, almost a decade before I was ever born. I have only ever known my grand father through the stories of my father, the stories that his sons shared with us. And yet I sat there, with this seeming stranger, who almost beamed with glee that his eldest son was coming home.

My uncle lived a beautiful life. He wasn’t without his hardships, he didn’t have anything easy– he worked disgustingly hard for anything he had, anything he left to his family. But it was a full, long, lovely, warm, joyous life. And at the end, there were people who missed the hell out of him. He had lived for much more than half his life without his father– the thought is unbearable– and I imagine a scene of serene reunification on a bench somewhere, under a tree, in a grassy patch of meadow, with an all too familiar gentleman, so patiently waiting. And I cannot help but smile.

You are missed. You always will be. I hope the petals of the florals we made for you have disintegrated into the grass, seeped into your soil fragments and lay with you for always. Our family’s patriarch. I hope you rest in peace.

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