Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Finding Life in Death

My uncle passed away just a few days ago, and I took off from work today to attend his funeral. This was my father's only brother; the two of them emigrated from Sicily in the 1950s with my grandparents, both hoping to take advantage of the opportunity to make a better life. He lived to see his two sons grow into successful adults and start families of their own.

It's my nature to take stock of own my life after an event like this (as I'm sure it is for most people). Have I been a good son, brother, friend, and boyfriend? Have I made the most of what I've been given, or taken things for granted? What have I really accomplished? Perhaps most importantly, I ask myself: Am I happy with my life?

What probably stood out to anyone attending the services the past two days was the sheer number of people who came to pay their respects. I've never seen anything like it. This man touched so many people in his life. As a teacher, I wonder if I've touched any of my students' lives in the way they've touched mine. In the broader sense, I wonder if I've done the same with family, friends or even my blog's readers. My mind starts to imagine who might show up to my funeral if I were to die right now. What stories would people tell about me? I certainly heard some great stories about my uncle that I won't soon forget. Then I start to think about the future, assuming a long life ahead, and questioning whether I will have mattered as much to as many people as my uncle clearly did.

My cousin, his son, gave a eulogy that brought me to tears (which, despite the grim circumstances, is not something that happens to me very often). He talked about how much my uncle really loved life, finding happiness in his friends and family rather than any material goods or wealth. He spoke lovingly of his father's sacrifices and hard work over the years, and how he strived to follow in his footsteps so that his family might thrive just as he and his brother had.

Everyone has their own way of making sense of events like this. What I took away from today was a resolve to make the changes in my life I need to make:
  • I will try to live my life to the fullest.
  • I will work harder to spend time with my family and friends, and make sure to tell them how much I appreciate them.
  • I will try to be happy.
  • I will continue teaching, and try to help as many young people as I can to fulfill their dreams.

Thank you, Uncle Frank, for teaching me about life. I'll miss you.