Sometimes you get to wake up and feel delighted to celebrate the one event that epitomizes the beginning of life: a birthday. Then, there are very rare times when you wake up to news that bears the opposite: the passing of another one’s life.
That is what my family members and I experienced this past week as we all mourned for the loss of my dear uncle. There are four of us who have birthdays in March, all of which are practically back-to-back in the span of a week. It was with sad news to hear that my uncle passed. Even more sad to hear that it happened on the same day as his youngest daughter’s birthday.
In the Cambodian culture, we perform a number Buddhist rituals in the first week of death alone to send our loved ones to peace. As I was sitting in meditation, in a crowd of family and community members, I realized that I was the only person in tears. Although everybody deals with grief in their own special way, this observation got me thinking about what my uncle’s passing really meant to me.
I will fondly remember the way he always looked at me like I was a star full of curiosity and youthfulness gleaming in my presence. He treated me as if I was his daughter and I always knew that deep down inside, he wanted to see me shine as brightly as possible as I flourished in my adulthood. Another aspect of him that I know I will cherish when I see it in others is the fact that he looked so handsome and charming in his beloved fedora.
Sadly, I cannot recollect the last time I saw him in person, but I distinctively remember when we last spoke over the phone. There was something about his tone of reaction to my greeting that seemed so assured. It was as if he was able to let out a sigh of relief knowing that my voice was tangible. As if hearing my voice made a world of difference to his day.
I spent a lot of my childhood being a grownup, which is probably why I can seem so disciplined, reserved and well-behaved in my adulthood. I find that, when I am with people who challenge me to color outside the lines, people who remind me that speckles of what is left of my innocence still illuminate my eyes, I cherish those people the most because they make my heart come alive the best.
My uncle was one of those people. Saying goodbye to him makes it feel like the “child” in my childhood is that much further removed from my past now that he has become an angel.
As I enter the 29th year of my life right after this loss has taken place, I am left to ponder what piece of wisdom I could impart to others. I leave you with this:
Whichever parts of your life represent pieces of your innocence, however you choose to define what innocence is, keep those artifacts as close to your heart as possible. They are necessary reminders that there is softness left inside of you. Sometimes that softness is hidden because you still need healing from whatever removed you from your innocence in the first place.
Be humbled that the sun still rises and the moon still shines. Know that you are complete.