As those of you who are close friends and family know, my nephew passed away on Monday evening. He was 43 ½ years old and died of a sudden massive coronary. (Yes, he did have a cardiac history but had not been ill recently.) He was alone, sitting in a parked vehicle on a shopping center parking lot. Due to some confusion between the hospital and the police department, the family was not notified until Tuesday afternoon. A kind shopper, who happened to be a nurse, parked next to him and noticed he was slumped over in the seat and tried to rouse him. Unable to do so, she called 911 and began CPR. Unfortunately, it was too late.
I am heartened to know there are still folks in “the big city” who do care enough to take a chance and get involved. You read too many accounts of tragedies where witnesses later say they noticed something was awry but didn’t feel it was their place to do anything or to even call for help. I thank that kind lady for trying and I thank all of those out there who have acted in similar situations and, perhaps, were able to save someone’s life and save their families such heartbreaking loss.
I am also thankful that he was sitting still, parked, and not driving on the highway where the tragedy may have wreaked havoc on others had a collision occurred. Perhaps he realized this and intentionally did not start his car. I have to believe he was overcome quickly as he did not attempt to use his cell phone or call out for help.
I hope his friends remember him as a good guy, who was proud of his service in the United States Marines and belonged to the American Legion. (He served in the first Desert Storm.) There will be a military funeral on Monday. He was a Steelers fan, a pretty fair and adventuresome cook and enjoyed, of all things, listening to Dean Martin! (He always claimed to have been “born too late for the good music“.) He played on a darts team. Childless himself, he had four nieces and a nephew who will remember him as a “fun” uncle.
As we were closer in age than many aunts and nephews, we grew up more like brother and sister. We fought like siblings and banded together in the same way. He was in our home more than in his own parents’ home when he was young and he and my niece both credited my mother (and grandmother) with much of their formative life experiences. As a teenager and young adult he lived with his Dad and step-mother where they continued shaping him into the strong, intelligent adult he became.
After his Dad’s death less than 20 months ago, he and his step-mother remained close. In fact, it is she who was notified by the police and has had the daunting task of informing the family and putting together the funeral arrangements. He called her “Mom” and loved her as any young man can love a mother. She is truly a part of our family and I thank her for being there for him in good times and bad and for “taking care of him” now.
Things have been dragged out for a few days as military funerals are scheduled by the Veterans’ cemetery involved and they tell the family when it can occur. We are lucky to have received a close date. I have known some who have been held at bay for weeks and, in the case of Arlington, even months.
I don’t think we, as a family and individually, have truly felt the full impact of this yet. That comes later when the hectic activity slows and we have time to just feel the loss. I was not involved in the chaos of planning the funeral or in the emptying of his apartment which was handled by his brother and sister and their spouses. I did make a number of calls to family and friends, among them, my sister, his mother.
They have been estranged for many years but she is his mother. It was a difficult call to make and, unfortunately, I had to do it late at night which somehow magnifies the news (as if it could get worse). She was, of course, greatly effected and has flown into town for the services. She is my sister and though we have had our differences over the decades, we have drifted closer in the last year or two as the immediate family has dwindled. My parents and brother are gone. She is the last surviving sibling.
Her poor relationship with her children has always been one of those issues that has grated on me. She has not done much better with her grandchildren either. I have seen and felt their pain over this issue for years. I am the one who picked her up from the airport and have her staying with me. I feel for her as I know she is somewhat of an outsider in this situation. I’m sure she has regrets and, now, with regard to her son, it is too late to mend fences. But, on the other hand, it is a world of her own making. I was pleased to see her go and spend time with my niece and her family today. Perhaps a light bulb will go off and she can begin working to improve that relationship now although, I’m not sure she fully realizes how tenuous it is. ( I'd like to remind all of you that time is NOT unlimited and you should work toward mending fences now. you can never predict when it will be too late.)
In the meantime, I feel caught in the middle. I am closer to the children and stepmother and feel the need to be with her and support her fully. They are the family I am with throughout the year on a regular basis. They are the folks I believe will be there for me when I need them. I also feel the need to be there for my sister. In the meantime, I need to deal with my own grief. It’s a tough and stressful situation.
Please keep us in your thoughts as we go through the next few difficult days.