Dear Uncle Mike,
I don’t know how to start this letter. If I’m being truthful, just the thought of writing it had my stomach hurting all morning. It’s one thing to think these thoughts internally, pray my prayers in the morning…but I can physically feel the weight on my chest as I write it out. My hope is, I’ll write it, others will read it, some will know exactly what I’m feeling, and the weight will be lightened because it’s shared.
There are still tears. Just about everyday. I don’t mean to cry, I certainly don’t want to, but I do. Alone. I’d like to say that it hurts less, but if it does, it’s only slightly. I guess the only difference is that I don’t break down sobbing everyday now. Just tears. Tears that I quickly wipe away before anyone catches me because crying isn’t my thing. I guess there’s a part of me that feels embarrassed that I can’t keep it together when I think of you, one year later. It’s like, we’ve seen or heard some people, so reflective and peaceful about death. Their words and demeanor, it’s comforting and reassuring. They speak about how they smile when they think of their departed one, how they see signs/reminders from their lost loved one…it makes you almost believe that you too can be this person. Like it’s attainable to reach that point.
I am not at that point.
The sadness is still very real and very present.
I know that’s not what you intended when you left. I know it hurts your heart, watching how hard we’ve taken it. Aunt Susie. My Mom. Everyone. And I don’t mean to make you feel sorry for going. I know the alternative wasn’t what any of us wanted either. No one wanted to see you in pain. No one wanted to see you small and defeated. Not when we knew/know who you really are.
You’re a lion.
I’m so sorry for the years that passed when our communication wasn’t as frequent as it should have been. I was a stupid girl, living her early 20’s with her priorities all out of order, and the delusion that her people would always be around. I regret every visit home, up to Michigan from Nashville, that I didn’t come see you or at least call you. Every time you heard from my mom that your goddaughter was in town for the weekend …after the fact… I’d give anything to undo that.
Thank you for loving me and supporting me anyway. Thank you for still asking Mom about me. Thank you for being my first big donation when I fearfully launched a Kickstarter campaign to record an album. An album that I am SO thankful you finally got to listen to before you left.
Thank you for being there for my Mom. I know it was your support that got her through some of her most difficult times. I’m very grateful that I have a brother to talk me through life too. (And sisters, of course.). Thank you for the reminders, even when I was frustrated and complaining, “I hear you, but it doesn’t matter. That’s your mother.” I now see that you said that not only because it’s true and you loved your baby sister, but because you would’ve given anything for the opportunity to be “frustrated and complaining” about your mother again. I’m sorry it took decades to get it but I get it.
I feel blessed that we reconnected before everything went wrong. Before Uncle Corky. Before your diagnosis. It’s the only solace I really find after your death…that I knew how important my relationship with you was before it was threatened. And in that reconnection, you got to meet Jon. You got to see the beginning. The start of a better life and of a better Rachel. Although you didn’t know, I didn’t know, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t know then either just how good him & I would turn out to be. I wish you were going to be sitting right beside Aunt Susie at my wedding. I’d give anything to hear your thunderous voice make jokes about how I better sprint down the aisle before Jon changes his mind. Because we all know you’d say it, ha.
I can’t believe it’s been an entire year. It’s been both the longest and shortest year of my life. So much has happened since March 24, 2017 and yet, I can remember every detail of this time last year. The weeks leading up to it, the weeks that followed…how when we left the hospital room that night, I was so sure you were going to miraculously pull through despite how dire it looked. How I went out to celebrate Fat Tuesday in Hamtramck a few weeks prior, leaving you a semi-buzzed message on your answering machine. I just wanted you to know how ridiculously Polish I felt that day because I thought you’d get a kick out of it and be proud. And you were. You always brought me back to my roots, whether you meant to or not. And despite the deaths and the distance on the Polish side of our family, it’s still half of who I am. And I feel it’s pulse stronger in my veins now than ever. I know that’s you.
This year I celebrated Fat Tuesday at Polish Village again. I raised a glass to you and tried desperately to recreate last year’s experience. Consequently, it fell short.
There is no going back.
There’s a huge part of me that feels guilty in moving forward, like it means you weren’t here. If I feel that way, I can only imagine how Aunt Susie, your son, your sisters must feel. But again, I know you most certainly don’t want the alternative for any of us either. Stagnate. Or declining. Constantly sad or guilt-ridden.
So a year later… I can’t promise not to go there, but I can promise not to stay there. And maybe that’s good enough for now. Staying sad a little less each day.
Tonight, a big group of Siniarskis will assemble for our first family gathering that didn’t involve a wedding or a funeral in a long time. I’ll be proud to sit with them. I’ll be proud to honor you. And we will save you a seat…and a pierogi.
Say Hi to everyone for me.