Along with Hepatits C, he had many other medical problems, and this past year or so had been especially rough for him. Aside from his physical issues, he had junkies for roommates, stealing his social security checks and pills. After being juggled between hospitals and nursing homes for the last few months, they decided to put him into hospice a couple weeks ago.
Friday was a strange day. After getting the news from my father around 10 a.m., I drove up to Toccoa, met with some of the family, and most of us went into a back room to see David before they cremated him. The fastest funeral ever.
The six of us and the funeral director convened in a small meeting room, deciding what to do from there. We all chose to not run any obituary notices in the newspaper or on the radio, as those outside of the room who wasn't family would not need to know that he had died. They didn't deserve it.
We also decided to postpone the Memorial Service -- we wanted to wait until his mother could handle it.
I don't really how I'm handling all this -- it's definitely a mix of grief and guilt. Grief because he's gone. Guilt because it's been years since I last saw him. Guilt because he never met Liam. And he could have.
I have both good and bad memories of David.
The good memories of him coming over and spending time with us kids. Teaching us poker and rummy, how you actually play it (and not the way our grandfather, his dad, taught us). How we would walk a trail through the woods to get to his mobile home, and spend time with him talking about Bruce Lee, or recalling tales from his younger days when he was a getaway driver for bank robbers.
The bad memories, the times when he was off his medication and most vulnerable. The time he came over one Sunday as we were getting ready for church. He asked if he could hide out at our place -- someone he helped put in prison was getting out that day, and David knew this ex-con's first stop would be David's trailer, to kill him. My mother explained that we needed to go to church, but he was welcome to stay as long as he liked. He said, "Well, when you get back, I'm going to be dead." I had seen this before, on smaller scales, so I knew things would be fine. But I was nine, and I wasn't able to stop thinking and worrying about him until we got back.
Uncle David was a conflicted man. His past sins defeated his future. He only spoke of himself in the negative, deeming himself irredeemable because of his lifestyle choices when he was younger. I'm not trying to reduce his life to a cautionary tale, a mere lesson for me to learn from. But there's still something that was missing -- a life that chose to live defeated. A life that was content on being discontent.
I miss him. I hope maybe at last he's at peace with himself. And maybe that's part of my grief and guilt -- that he was never able to find peace before now.