First of all, I wanted to thank everyone for all the support, and all of your comments and messages… You are all incredible, as you have always been for me over the years whenever I’ve needed you. I’m sorry that I haven’t been around much since my last post about my uncle’s sudden passing. I had originally planned on writing a follow-up post once I had more information about what actually happened, but I didn’t end up getting any details until the funeral earlier today.
It appears that he suffered the heart attack while cleaning his new motorcycle, a Harley that he had just bought a couple of weeks ago. He hadn’t started riding motorcycles until just about 8 years ago, it was a new hobby that he had picked up shortly after taking early-retirement. My Aunt & Uncle had sold their home (right next-door to me) to my brother around the same time (well below what the could’ve gotten for it, simply to “keep it in the family”), and moved into a retirement community next to the University of CT, where he also picked-up a part-time job to keep help himself busy during his retirement. He had bought himself his first bike shortly thereafter as a retirement present to himself, and had just finally upgraded to the Harley he had been wanting for years just two weeks ago.
He had just taken the bike out for a ride early that last morning, and was cleaning & taking care of his “new baby” when he had a massive heart attack. My aunt was not home at the time, so he was found by the groundskeeper of the retirement community. In a way, I’m glad that my Aunt Barbara wasn’t the one to find him out there. By the time she came home, his body had already been rushed to the hospital, the same hospital that she had worked at for the past forty-plus years, and had just recently retired from. - They were less than two months shy of their 49th wedding anniversary. They were high-school sweethearts, who got married when they were only twenty years old, then raised a family together (two children, four grandchildren, and now two great-grandchildren), and had one of the strongest, long-lasting, and loving marriages that I have ever been personally witness to… and ever since I received the news from my dad, my only solace was in the fact that she didn’t have to be the one to find his body out there, that she didn’t have to have that image burned into her brain.
We had the funeral earlier today, and beforehand I had been worried about how my aunt was handling it, but I’m happy to say that she was in mostly-positive spirits. Obviously, after nearly fifty years of marriage, they had talked with each other about their wishes many times, and she was faithfully seeing them through, and with the bravest face possible. - And she’s taking solace in the fact that he “died doing something that he enjoyed to do”, and the fact that it was quick, and not from a drawn-out illness, which was always a fear of his.
It was good to see their kids (my cousins) and their grandchildren again. They’ve all lived away from the area for many years now, and it’s sad that the only time we seem to see each other anymore is at funerals. I’m glad that they’ve been able to be here for their mom, and support her through this, although I’m still worried about how she’s going to deal with it once they have to go back home to their lives, and she has to face being alone, without him for the first time since they were teenagers.
As much as I cannot fathom being married to someone for almost fifty years, I truly cannot imagine the pain of losing someone that was with you, that was your partner, your best friend, and your love for that long of a period of time. - My Aunt Barbara has always been one of the strongest people I’ve known, and I know that she’ll have the strength and the faith to get through it. They have always made a great team together, she was always the strong, serious half, while Uncle Jim was the fun, comic-relief half of the duo, who could make anyone laugh and smile, even in the worst of circumstances. Their personalities were completely different, but together they were always a perfect balance.
I can’t ever picture a time when my Uncle Jim wasn’t smiling, or laughing. He was the type of person who just made everyone around him happy. He had one of the greatest senses of humor that I’ve ever known, and could always make even the most staunchly-serious person around him loosen up & laugh.
I think I saw a glimpse of how my aunt is starting to deal with his loss today, when we were all talking and catching up after the service this afternoon: one of us was talking, and left a pause that would usually lead to one of Uncle Jim’s classic comebacks, and she just stepped in and said, “Well, you know what Jimmy would say…” and then delivered the line herself. It made me laugh, and helped me realize what she perhaps already knows: that she has a lifetime of his humor, and his positivity in her memories to help her through the tough times ahead.