Life Is Fragile · 26 September 2015

Life is fragile and we should handle it with care.

Actually, even though life can be fragile, the truth is that relationships are fragile and we ought to handle each other’s hearts with care. We need to treasure each person’s heart.

I was reminded of this thought when one of my uncles died recently.

Family is a funny thing. When you have a strong one, you want to be near them. I know because I have this draw to be near my parents and siblings. And yet this same draw is what keeps me where I am. When the family ties we have to our own parents and siblings is strong, the ties to our children become even stronger. We want to be near our parents and siblings, the ones who have always given us strength and encouragement, but we have an even greater need to be near those who draw strength and encouragement from us. Which is what I thought about when Uncle Wes died. He could have been around his brothers and sisters to give him strength when he needed it, but he chose not to do so. I am pretty sure I know why.

Uncle Wes was the seventh of eight children and the youngest of the five boys. He was fiercely proud and loved his family. But for much of his life, he lived far from his brothers and sisters. I am not sure if he was like many of us and wanted to move far away when he struck out on his own. I do not know whether he wanted to be far from security and walk the tightrope without a safety net or if the circumstances of his life just put him where he ended. Regardless of the reason, Uncle Wes was far from most of his siblings for much of his life.

While I am not sure why Uncle Wes landed so far from the nest, I do know why he stayed. He knew that his siblings were always there and would help him in any way they were able. He knew that they loved and supported him. He knew that they were his anchor in any storm. But he never went back to his hometown near half of his siblings because he wanted to be those same things to his son. He wanted to be near Charles.

Uncle Wes named his son Charles after his own father. And even though all of our family members usually call my cousin Charlie, Uncle Wes always called him Charles. I even remember him scolding me one time for calling him Charlie. Charles was not even there at the time, but Uncle Wes made a point to tell me that his name was not Charlie, but Charles. After all, he was becoming a man and Charlie was a boy’s name. Or something like that. I do not know that I ever heard Uncle Wes call him Charlie except maybe when he was very young. So to honor Uncle Wes (especially after the scolding) and Charles, I started thinking of my cousin as Charles and trying to call him by his given name.

That special name and that special boy were what kept Uncle Wes from being near to his siblings even though they were where he drew his strength from. He wanted to be that same source of strength to his son. Even when cancer and other physical ailments had taken his health and made his body frail, he remained strong and resolute. Even as he lay dying, he wanted to be that rock for his son. And even though I was not there, I am sure that when the end came, Uncle Wes was happy to know that the strength he had given his son just by being there was flowing the other way. In the end, Charles was surely the strength for Uncle Wes.

Photo courtesy Judi Miyoshi

I worry a little about Charles now that Uncle Wes is gone. I worry that he does not have that rock any more. I worry that he does not have relatives around. But I know that he has friends and loved ones who care for him. And I know that Charles knows he has family he can turn to. He knows that if he wants to, he can go back to a place where his father could not. Because he was taught that family is important. Because he was given a bright example of love from his father. And his father passed the responsibility of being the rock to his son. So he can be there for others.

Uncle Wes may have died frail in body, but he stayed strong in his commitment to his family. He drew strength from his brothers and sisters. In fact, they all commented on how happy he was when they were all together for what ended up being the last time. He even gave them hope when he seemed to rally at the end. And he gave that hope and strength to his son throughout his life.

Uncle Wes knew how fragile relationships can be. He knew how the heart could crumble when left alone. Which is why he never left Charles. And why I am sure Charles will survive and even thrive even though his father is gone.

We will miss you Uncle Wes. Thank you for showing us how to treasure each other and care for the tender heart. Thank you for showing us that life and relationships are fragile and we need to handle each other’s hearts with care.

© 2015 Michael T. Miyoshi

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