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Life Without Them
I didn’t know how to go on after losing my aunt and uncle
Chimore Mack

My favorite relatives were my Uncle Larry and Aunt Cynthia, my mother’s older brother and sister. I was jolly whenever they came over to my grandmother’s house, where I lived with my siblings. Their love and warmth were so strong that I wished they were my birth parents.

Cynthia used to spoil me with gifts. If I did well in school, she would give me a dollar or some pink Bubble Tape. She also bought me a Bugs Bunny stuffed animal and clothes. I sometimes got picked on for wearing the outfits she gave me (like a brown sweater with large white flowers and shoulder pads), but I didn’t care because they were from her. She even made me clothes with fabric that she let me pick out.

Now for Larry: He was a ladies’ man who wore sunglasses, dressed stylishly, and kept himself groomed. He always had a girlfriend.

I have a fond memory of him once coming to my grandmother’s house with a brown bag. My siblings and I came near, thinking that he had brought us some toys, trying to surprise us like he always did. Nope, it was some live crabs. I was so scared! I moved back as he dropped the crabs into boiling water.

I was like, “So that’s how crabs are cooked.” He started laughing his funny laugh.

Uncle Larry inspired me to create my own dishes and taught me that everyone has a different taste for food.

A Shocking Visit

When I was 13, my grandmother took me with her to visit Aunt Cynthia. I walked into her house and saw a strange woman. My grandmother introduced her as Aunt Cynthia’s nurse. I was upset as I realized that Aunt Cynthia must be sick and that my grandmother had kept this from me. I realized this must be why she hadn’t been coming over to my grandmother’s house recently and had started mailing packages of clothes to me.

Aunt Cynthia didn’t look like herself. She had lost weight. She told me that she was diagnosed with cancer. I couldn’t believe it.

I spent two or three hours with her. She told me to do well in school and listen to my grandmother. I didn’t want to leave her in the house, which felt like a gloomy place. I wanted her to come home with me, but she couldn’t. That was the last time I saw her.

Two months later, she passed away. I was devastated. The friendly and jovial girl suddenly became an unfriendly and secluded person. I felt it was unfair for her to pass away because she had done nothing wrong; in fact, she was very spiritual. I thought that good comes to you if you are a good person.

image by YC-Art Dept

I felt it was me against the world, like someone was trying to make me unhappy and lonely. I started to have an attitude with people, especially with my grandmother. I was mad that she’d waited so long to tell me about my aunt’s diagnosis. I really started to keep my distance from her.

More Bad News

About a year later, I slowly started to feel like myself again. I bought two Hello Kitty journals and began to write poems and diary entries. It was comforting to express my feelings. I felt more at ease and ready to open up to people. But then I got more bad news: Uncle Larry was diagnosed with diabetes.

I went to visit him at the Veteran’s Hospital, where he told me that a part of his leg and his toes had been amputated. I started crying. I was devastated. I questioned God. Why had this happened? Why did he have to go through this when he always helped everyone? I wondered if God was doing it on purpose. I felt like I was my losing my faith in Him. I thought that the evil was beating the good.

Uncle Larry stayed in the hospital for a long time, and I tried to see him there once in a while. One afternoon, I got excused from tennis practice to go visit him. He greeted me with a smile. “Hello, I’m surprised that you came here early,” he said, sitting up from the hospital bed.

The nurse came in to offer him some nasty-looking chicken and watered down mashed potatoes.

“Are you going to eat that?” I asked.

“Hell no,” he said, looking disgusted. I laughed. “Go to the store and buy me a hamburger,” he said.

“I can’t get you that! You know you aren’t supposed to eat fattening foods,” I said.

He agreed with me, but he eventually convinced me to get him a beef patty with cheese and coco bread. I was laughing.

He ate the food without the nurses knowing. I felt guilty about bringing stuff that he wasn’t supposed to have, but I was glad I’d made his day.

image by YC-Art Dept

Throughout high school, I would visit with Uncle Larry. We talked about everything—school, my grandmother, whatever—and watch Judge Judy. I didn’t want him to feel alone. It was good to see him in good spirits, but it was sad to leave at the end of the visit.

Consumed With Grief

After high school, I moved to New Hampshire for college and didn’t see Uncle Larry as much. One day when I was in my dorm doing homework, my mother called. I knew something wasn’t right by the way she spoke, and I was right. She told me that Uncle Larry had passed away—and that my grandmother was in the hospital.

I had known my uncle wasn’t going to make it, but I still felt shocked. I was expecting him to live a few more years. I was also shocked to hear about my grandmother, who my mom said was in the hospital due to her anxiety.

I was too devastated to go to Uncle Larry’s funeral, but I did see my grandmother at the hospital. She had tubes in her arm, and she’d lost a lot of weight. I could tell she was grieving. Uncle Larry’s passing took a big toll on both of us.

I started flunking my classes and had a hard time getting close to people. It was similar when I lost Aunt Cynthia, but more devastating. I felt my world crashing down.

I left college. I felt that I had made a mistake by going there and headed back to New York. I ended up going to a school close to my house. Meanwhile, my grandmother found that she had a hard time coping with her anxiety.

The loss of my aunt and uncle made me less optimistic. I was taught that God is fair, so it’s hard for me to understand why bad things happen to good people. The passing of my relatives challenged my faith in God and made me wonder—would I suffer a disease and pass away so young?

I already had a protective shell around me before Uncle Larry’s passing, but afterward, it got even thicker. I didn’t get too close to people because I didn’t want to lose anyone else. I developed a big fear of death.

I want people to understand that no, it’s not easy to move on after someone passes away, but you can’t let it shut you down.

It took two or three years before I felt like opening up to people again. I’m planning to go to therapy to help me deal with my past and build up a better future. My fear of death is still there; it’s going to take a while for me to move past that. I have good feelings about God more often now, and my faith in Him is much stronger because I tell myself that everything happens for a reason. This gives me peace and closure.

Still, I wish that Aunt Cynthia and Uncle Larry could see me in person and be proud of me and my accomplishments. I think and dream about my aunt and uncle every day.

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