Pete Is Home
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times.”
(The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien)
There’s nothing particularly endearing to me about the Lord of the Rings saga, save for Samwise Gamgee’s unwavering loyalty to Frodo. Nevertheless, this exchange with Gandalf strikes a chord.
None of us ever really wants to face tragedy. Sure, we may have some strange inclination towards fictional accounts in action/drama/post-apocalyptic fare and we may even give in to gawker syndrome when passing an accident scene, but the vast majority of our species does not genuinely wish to see suffering.
And yet, we are privy to tragedy and pain on a daily basis, be it on a personal or global scale. The bad in life seems to happen so frequently that we can become indifferent to it. It’s only when the pain hits close to home or in a shocking, unexpected way that we pause and truly mourn.
This morning, for the first time in my life, I awoke in a world where Uncle Pete does not share his smile. Just shy of a year after his terminal diagnosis, the cancer became too much for his body to handle. It is now my turn to mourn.
On Friday afternoon, I received word that Pete had been moved to a hospice facility. My extended family had already planned to come to town on Saturday, so I joined them that evening. I expected it would be a difficult visit, but I couldn’t have imagined the degree to which I had underestimated.
Severus and I sat with Pete and Sherry for about ten minutes Saturday night. What do you say to a dying man who is physically little more than a shell of the person you’ve always known? Naturally, I told him he looked good (to which he replied “under the circumstances”). I told him that he was a trouble-maker and a brat; he said I was a brat, too 🙂
When he got fidgety and started pulling at his oxygen tube, I lectured him not to be like Papaw—who had died after pitching a fit about not needing the oxygen and throwing his mask across the room. In typical Pete fashion, a Papaw-esque fit ensued…followed by a devious little smirk and “hee hee.” He then told me to sit down (in as close to a Papaw imitation as he could muster). We bantered a little more, but much of his mumbling was incoherent and I could tell he was hurting.
Not knowing what else to say, I suggested that we let Pete get some rest. After kissing him on the cheek and discreetly slipping a note into his breast pocket (I’ve no idea if Sherry read it to him), we walked to the door.
“See you soon,” I said.
“Are you coming back tomorrow?” he managed to squeak out.
“Wouldn’t miss it,” said she who was on the verge of tears.
But I didn’t make it back in time.
When we got out of church Sunday morning, I had a voicemail from my mom and text message from my dad—”Pete’s home now.”
In the days ahead, I hope to detail some of the lessons I learned from my uncle and the example he and my aunt set. In the meantime, my duty is to help Aunt Sherry as much as I can. Her transition from wife to widow is not an easy one; I pray that she will feel peace and comfort.