Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Nan called

After descending from from the slushy and icy roads of Vlasic Mountain last night, we decided to have a meal in 'Divan', a restaurant located in the former home of Nobel Laureate Ivo Andric. Andric won his nobel prize for his striking and provocative book called 'Na Drini cuprija' (Bridge on the Drina). Travnik doesn't even have a street named after Bosnia's only nobel winner. All that remains is a small museum, apparently in the place where he grew up, above the restaurant. We had great trout, possibly from the fish farm on the icy waters of Plava Voda, the spring that rushes out of the side of Mt. Vlasic. Around 19.00 we headed home towards Sarajevo. My mobile rang. It was grandmother.

My grandmother, a feisty 80 year old from the UK's Channel Islands, can talk the ear off of most. I wasn't sure whether or not to answer, but I decided to go ahead and have a chat with Nan. Her voice was lulled, somber. Not her typical self. From her tone i anticipated her next sentence 'I have some bad news for you.' There was no stomach churning, no anxiety...just waited to see what had happened to who. It was my Uncle Dan. He died yesterday afternoon after an almost decade long bout with cancer.

Sadness wasn't my first emotion. I immediately started to talk to him in my head, just like I did when my other grandmother passed away over ten years ago. For some reason I believe the 'dead' can always hear me when i speak to them with silent words. I feel them. I was glad his excruciating suffering was over. He had withered to almost nothing from the once tall and strong Navy officer I remember as a kid. I knew somehow that he was relieved too, he felt himself a tremendous burden on his wife Eileen, my dad's older sister. I wished him a good journey. Asked him to take good care of Aunt Eileen...and to make sure he lets her know that he's ok.

We have a big family. And they have four kids and 7 grandkids, not to count all the other cousins and their children. Uncle Dan is gone. And all the years when we said he'd never make it to the next Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving...all the landmarks we doubted he'd surpass, he always did somehow. But not this time. My Aunt Grace, Dad's oldest sister and a nurse of 40+ years, knew he wouldn't make it to February. She called Uncle Dan's family and told them to come. The cancer had spread to his brain. He was comatose. He died in his sleep. They had all made it in time to say goodbye -- even though he wasn't awake to hear them say it.

I'll probably be the only cousin not to make it to his funeral. That makes me sad. He was not only a well-liked man, but he awed us all with his strength to fight on. I am still convinced I would not be able to fight as valiantly as he did. Don't think i have it in me. But who knows, maybe getting to see your wife of 45 years and all your grown up kids is worth the discomfort, pain, and suffering of cancer. He hadn't eaten a solid meal in almost 10 years. He couldn't speak normally because the cancer had attacked his throat and tongue long ago. He couldn't play golf anymore. Couldn't make us all laugh with his great sense of humour and easy going temperament.

I know i am babbling. In some way i want to pay tribute to a man who was not only my uncle, but my cousins' dad, my aunt's husband, and a genuinely very pleasant, kind, and thoughtful human being. So i bid him farewell. I hope Aunt Eileen will find solace in his departure and that her belief in God will perhaps ease her heartache. Fly with the angels Uncle Dan...and come check in on us every now and then. Rest in peace my dear friend.



juancho said...

I'll pour a little out for him tonight.

tim clancy said...

amen, brother. have one on me.