The past couple of weeks have been busy. More specifically, the last week was quite a whirlwind of shock, sadness, tiredness, love and lots of other emotions. The past three weekends, we've had football games in West Texas, so that was lots of long work days and travel. On Sunday, April 25, I was selling tickets at a game in Big Spring, TX and got a call from my mom.
1. She rarely calls me, I normally call her. 2. She knew I was working at a game at that moment. I knew she probably didn't have any good news when calling in a middle of a game. The shock was still immense. She told me that Uncle Chuck died and my heart might have skipped a beat. I didn't understand, I had just seen him a couple of months ago and he was fine. He's a really energetic guy, always busy with something and upbeat. For everything he's involved in and does, you'd never think he was 73. My parents had dinner with him and my other aunts and uncles just a week earlier and he was fine! She proceeded to tell me briefly what happened as I began crying hysterically. I had to put the phone down a couple of times to wait on customers and felt embarrassed and how I must look to the random strangers. A headache set in immediately and I finished the work day, not really remembering the details of what happened to my dad's brother.
I got the whole story on the way back to Austin and just can't believe it. A blood clot killed his intestines and then started to kill the rest of his organs and his heart was unable to compensate and he passed within about 15 hours of his initial symptoms of chills and body aches. Unbelievable.
Everything just happened so fast. I booked my flight Monday night (without second thought; it wasn't an option to not be there with my family) and was on a plane at 7:00 a.m. Tuesday. The visitation was Wednesday and Thursday, so our family was there the whole time. I know this is getting really long already, but I want to continue. Thursday was the Last Alarm ceremony with the Toledo Fire Department. It was a really nice way to pay tribute to Uncle Chuck as a retired firefighter and paramedic. Lots of retired and current firefighters were there and they all filed past the casket as one rang the bell until they all went by to pay their respects. The funeral home was packed.
Friday was the funeral, which began with bag pipes and time for everyone to pay their last respects to the body and a prayer with the family before the service began. Everyone was really emotional and touched by the music. I started to realize that this was harder than most of my grandparents' funerals b/c it was so sudden and he was healthy and not really that old. Uncle Chuck was one of my closest uncles out of all my dad's siblings and their spouses.
The funeral service was nice, a couple people read scriptures and shared some really nice memories and everyone who spoke was emotional. We sang hymns and listened to a touching sermon. After filing out of the church the bag pipes played again on the lawn and one of the tunes was Amazing Grace as they loaded the casket into the hearse. Heart-wrenching.
The final portion (excluding lunch) of the service was the processional past Fire Station #25 behind an antique fire truck. All the Toledo fire chiefs were standing outside saluting as the processional drove past. The drive concluded at the church where we enjoyed lunch and time with the extended family.
One kind of funny thing that happened was that my aunt and uncle who now live in California both thought that I was my mom. I guess it was good for me to laugh at them not knowing who I was right away rather than be highly offended that I was mistaken for someone over 60. At least they thought that I had lost weight and looked great, right? Apparently, I look just like my mom when she was my age. Yikes. Lol.
Anyway, I'm really going to miss Uncle Chuck and how he gave me a hug or two every time I saw him. Christmas is going to be really weird without him there. I feel blessed to know and be related to such a wonderful man and that he took the initiative for us becoming a closer family about 10 years ago. He touched many lives and we will always remember his stories, with the embellishments of course. My heart goes out to my aunt Bev and my dad and the other aunts and uncles who have lost two siblings in just two months.
Rachel described her grief about Uncle Chuck on her blog and it's a really good post.