My uncle recently passed a couple weeks ago. I got a solemn phone call from my little brother one Sunday afternoon letting me know that he was shot and killed last night. I was shocked, but it didn't really hit me until I began looking through all my photos later that night. I came upon a cold realization that I didn't have a photo of him anywhere. I mean, it's not like he was always there but he was family nonetheless. Thinking about how my dad must've have felt losing his only direct family he has left, it finally hit me.
Sitting at the funeral service back in St. Cloud, I tried my best not to cry since we're supposed to show strength for the family to hold it in. (More on this later.) As the buddhist monks went through the traditional chants and prayers, there was more than enough time for me to think.
I had a tough time even looking at the coffin without the waterworks breaking through. People were filing through the doors and there wasn't close to enough seating room at the funeral home. My little brother and my mom were sitting next to me while my father was up front with the monks and the elders of the community.
There however was one empty seat next to me since no one wanted to come in "late" and sit down towards the front, and I couldn't help but imagine my uncle -short, tough, and quite confident sporting his shaved head and signature black sunglasses- sitting next to me and teasing me about girls or whatever he felt like teasing me about at the time. "Look up to your badass uncle" his rhetoric would be.
I fight back the tears.
Finally after the monks were finished, we were able to go and pay our last respects to him up close. Standing up in line, I was doing pretty well. I thought I wasn't going to let the tears roll and not embarass myself in front of my parents and the rest of the community.
I hear my little brother start to cry behind me, my mom tells him gently not to cry. Not so much for pride, but because she herself didn't want to start either. At this point, it was too late. A community elder was in front of me, and she was such a nice lady. I've never met her before in my life, but I can't help but feel she knew who I was.
I get up to my uncle.
I grab some flowers to place inside the coffin.
I break down.
It's as if all my memories of him just flashed up into my brain like an explosion going off in the air. I remember when "our uncle from Denver" came to live with us for a while. I was 12 or so, and suddenly found myself without a bed to sleep on because "our uncle from Denver" needed a bed to sleep on.
I didn't mind.
Young and naive as I was, I didn't know nor care why all of it was happening. Why would I care at that age that my dad was trying to help his only brother start all over in a new life in the heart of Minnesota.
Flash forward to our soccer days. He was horrible. One time, I remember him dribbling the exact opposite way thinking he was going towards the opposing team's goal. He was such a ball hog and his passes were even worse, but it was hilarious and we all loved every second of it. I would be on the sideline, sucking air from sprinting for a straight 30 minutes and I would see him running off the field towards me calling for a sub.
It was no more than 6 minutes of him being on the field, and less than half of that for me being off. Begrudgingly, I hopped onto the field.
From the corner of my eye, I see him light up a Marlboro Red.
I cross the ball in from the sideline.
My dad heads it in for a goal.
He goes off to join my uncle for a "smoke break".
We all join each other under our tenting for lunch before the next game.