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Less than a week ago I was in London. I was at the British Museum of History. I was looking at the Living and Dying exhibit. I was reading about how people deal with pain, suffering. Death.

My grandpa died on July 10th. I was in England. We had the funeral a week later, the day after I arrived home. I walked into the funeral home completely unaware of the impact that my grandpa’s dead body in the casket would have on me. A dead man. I had never known anyone that had died. And there was a dead man. Who kinda looked like my grandpa. And kinda looked like a wax figure. It wasn’t him. Who was it? He was so skinny. I held my Dad’s hand and I cried. But I still didn’t believe, didn’t want to believe that I wouldn’t see Grandpa again.

My cousin couldn’t make the funeral because his wife was giving birth. A new baby. A new generation. A new boy in the Burtch family who will carry my Grandfather’s name. Living.

The day after Grandpa’s funeral, I was sitting with my mom on the deck, feeling like we were on the far side of the suffering, heading over the hill. The funeral was done, the eulogy, the planning, the anticipation. The phone rang. My uncle (mom’s brother) had a heart attack. Mom and I drove to the hospital but he was already gone. Gone. Like Grandpa. But worse, because no one expected this. Grandpa was old. Grandpa was dying. Uncle Larry was healthy. Uncle Larry was only a year older than my own dad. Uncle Larry and I were going wine tasting with Mom and Aunt Greta in August. And there he was lying on the stretcher. Cold and blue and dead. Two bodies in two days. And I was the only one who seemed capable of holding it together. Tried to be strong for my aunt, mom and cousin. Tried to get everything they needed, was the gopher. Read the Psalms beacuse I didn’t know what else to do. How did we make it through the first 24 hours? How will my aunt continue without her soulmate? How will we keep on living?

Living and Dying.

Yesterday my family released balloons in the backyard in memory/honour of my uncle. We watched them float up towards the clouds and away. He’s not gone. But he’s not still here with us. At least not the same as he was. I can’t really articulate what thoughts ran through my head as I released those balloons. I know he would have loved it though. Celebration. Colour. Life. And I will always remember him when I see a child watching a balloon float away. We will keep living.

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