by Richard Rossner
“There’s a disturbance in the Force.” - Obi-Wan Kenobi
My uncle died today. As soon as I heard the news, I felt the depth of Obi-Wan’s statement. It’s been happening a lot lately. My mother died last June.
The disturbance I feel is that small hole…the emptiness…the gap that a person leaves behind when they finish their life’s journey and head for the next adventure in the Hereafter. It seems like a selfish thing, but I didn’t even have to talk to them; I just liked knowing that my uncle and mom were here. My maneuverings in the world somehow felt safer knowing that we were sharing space, air, the daily happenings…everything. But the death of someone I love sensitizes me to the rip in the fabric of life.
Even though I believe in the concept of “spirit” and that it survives bodily death, it doesn’t make the loss any easier for me.
The death of a loved one – or even a not-so-loved one (it could simply be someone you only know casually) – forces reflection on all the big issues and questions: What are we doing here? Why don’t bad things happen to bad people? Why are women always slowly pushing baby strollers on the sidewalk in front of my house so I have to stop the car and wait before I can drive in?
I am proud to announce that my uncle prepared me for a career in boxing, which is why I am a writer. He would have laughed loudly at that line. My uncle was a funny guy. My mom was funny, too. So is their sister, my aunt. Their laughs, their perspectives, their senses of humor live inside of me. I’ve made my living writing humor, so I owe them all a major debt of gratitude.
I had an instinct to make a video of the three of them when they gathered for a bar mitzvah in 2003. They sat on a couch, and I asked them questions. I knew all the usual family stories, but it occurred to me that once upon a time they weren’t moms and aunts and uncles. They were simply my grandparents’ children. They were brothers and sisters who giggled and had secrets. They made fun of their parents’ generation the way my brother and cousins made fun of our parents. I wanted to see my uncle, mom and aunt be people. Kids. Sibs.
So I asked questions and they laughed, told stories, and I saw parts of them that I had never seen before. Of course, they also lived up to the caricatures my brother and cousins assigned to them. Before the formal interviewing began, the camera was rolling and caught a perfect sibling moment. They couldn’t decide who should sit where on the couch. My aunt gave them an order. My mother said why that order was wrong. My uncle made a crack about who had a better suggestion and why. It was like a Ringling Brothers car of circus clowns trying to get organized. Such sweetness in the smallest of interchanges.
I remember that even as we made that video there was kind of a poignancy I felt about the experience. Maybe I was sensing that it would be the last time all of them would be together. I’m glad my cousin and I made the recording, but I have to confess that I haven’t had the courage to look at it.
On the positive side, this sad news brought many aspects of life into sharp focus for me. Again.
I found myself walking to my car to load a suitcase from the hotel where my wife, dog and I have been living for the past two months. (Don’t ask – it’s a long, annoying story about mold in our rented house and the difficulty we are having in getting our landlord to pay for our hotel while the mold is remediated and the kitchen reconstructed). But there I was…walking to my car…struggling to maneuver the heavier than lead suitcase. Yet each step was intensely pleasurable. I could feel the fluid interaction of muscles, bones, and arteries. I sensed the keen coordination of balancing weight and maintaining a stride through the delicate intricacies of the inner ear, brain, and eyes. And then the moment was punctuated with the thought, “No more steps or walking for my uncle.”
Each breath had me marveling at the sweetness of the Los Angeles air and how the oxygen in it replenished and rejuvenated my whole body. “No more breathing for my uncle.” Even the rancid taste in my mouth was somehow heightened, simply because I could taste it.
Putting the suitcase in the car had my imagination flashing on my uncle’s family trips, where he must have had to load his car. All of the irritations of packing, getting the suitcases into the trunk, herding the family like uncooperative chickens…all of it had a sweetness that my uncle will never get to experience again.
His book is closed. His life and everything he did is now a complete record.
I know I mourn for his company, his sense of humor, his stories and his wisdom. I know he is in a higher vibration and a happier, healthier place. And it feels selfish to want him here for my pleasure. But that is the conundrum we all face.
It is hard to come to terms with the fact that we all have a specific door constructed just for us that we must pass through. We come to life through one, and we leave life through another one. We happily ignore the idea that with every breath and every step we are inching closer to that special door. Our door. But one day we will be upon it. And I suppose those left behind will contemplate thoughts like mine.
Richard Rossner is a writer who has written for television and film. When he isn’t writing, he is working with his wife, Rahla Kahn, teaching Adaptive Applied Improvisation to cancer patients, corporations and private clients who want to experience the healing benefits of laughter, joy and creativity through their experiential program, The Power Of Play (www.ThePowerOfPlay.com).
photo via istockphoto.com.