He had his issues, but as a child, I was oblivious to these.
To me, he was the cool uncle. To me he was an amazing man who knew how to have fun and had a truly contagious laugh that I can still hear echoing in my head.
In December 2008, he passed away. It was a month long process and it was a struggle to see him in the hospital there.
The whole time he was in the hospital, when I would lay down on my back, I would feel like I was breathing the way he did on the ventilator - my chest would move rhythmically as though it was being forced to breath by a machine.
One day, I had an extreme feeling in me around 4pm. I don't know how to describe it. There was a tenseness, and I suddenly thought of him and of wanting to see him again.
Later that day, I was told by my mother that they pulled the plug around the same time that I had been thinking of him.
I still remember him when I do certain things, and when I drive certain places in the city. I remember him each time I see a funeral procession. His name was Igwe and for some reason, the first time I heard the EMF "You're Unbelievable", I thought they were saying, "You're Uncle Igweble". (I was young and didn't listen well, I guess.) Many times, when someone says that something is unbelievable, I still think of those lyrics and of my uncle.
This month, as I write about loved ones, he is not forgotten. As I remember him, and the love that I saw of his friends and family after his death, I am crying again.
In honor of him, I am reposting what I wrote about him on this blog when he died:
When I was a small girl I remember an occasion when my uncle's cop friend came over and checked on us while he was away at school and my parents were at work. I thought that was the coolest thing. Especially since the motorcycle cop was notorious in the neighborhood (and the rest of St. Louis) for pulling people over on Manchester Road if they went even 31 in the 30 MPH area. I went to school the next day and told all my friends. All the guys were so jealous of my dad's brother. I also told them how he let me touch his helmet and sit on his motorcycle.
I remember clearly the night he was in a car accident and was hit by a bus. I woke up and couldn't go back to sleep for fear, seeing the accident in my head as the street lights lit up the ceiling over my top bunk. My heart still races when I imagine that night and see the bandages on his head.
I remember thinking how cool my uncle was. He was fairly young when he lived with us. He was the ultimate cool. He was in college with these massive books full of math problems I couldn't even begin to wrap my elementary school head around, he lived in the basement suite, he had some super cool friends, he always seemed happy, and he had the greatest laugh I had ever heard.
When we moved to the new house, he did not move with us. But he still came around a lot. I remember him coming with new cars, various new business ventures that always netted us some cool new gifts or free food. I remember at one point he was helping a friend of his get her music group up and running. They even opened up for Lauryn Hill and Busta Rhymes when they were in town. I remember going over to his apartments and seeing how cool it must be to live on your own.
As I have grown up, I have seen that he is not the perfect person. I have seen him suffer. I have seen him cause my parents pain.
But I have all these memories of him. Some are more current. Him using his new camera phone to take pictures of his first grand-nephew. Seeing him at my local grocery store laughing with the people behind the counter. Always that laugh.
November 8th my uncle went into the hospital. He had pneumonia and kidney failure. The first week he was there he started swelling. Although I really like learning the science behind the body, it was hard to look at him. At one point for a few days his normally skinny face was so swollen that it was actually larger than the photos I have seen of Emmitt Till lying in his coffin. There were tubes and bags all over him. They had to use a screen-type of thing on his eyes to protect them because he was so swollen that his eyes were bulging and could not close all the way. His kidneys failed and they put him on dialysis. His lungs collapsed and they had to put him on the new-fangled breathing machine that shook his entire body as it tried to move more oxygen through his lungs. He would get better and then he would get worse and then he would get better. There were days when we prepared for the worse and days where there seemed to be some semblance of hope.
Monday, December 15, he passed away. The doctors had tried everything and they said that he was way worse than when he entered the hospital. It took four minutes.
When I was younger there was a year when we went back to Nigeria for winter break. I was young. Our first dog, who was absolutely awesome despite her penchant for locking herself in the bathroom during storms, was dying at the time. She had cancer, or something similar. They took her to the doctor. We left for Nigeria and she was put to sleep on December 19th of that year -- my birthday.
This year on the 19th of December I will attend a funeral. It is strange and difficult because we have never had a funeral in this country. We had to find a funeral home and figure out what this will be like. At the same time, we are going to do some things similar to what we would do at home. My parents have a good, super large circle of friends who are going to help us a bit, but it still mind blowing.
I've cried, I've laughed at the memories, I have cried some more, I have tried to be strong. I am now to the point where when I think of him I constantly am hearing his laugh in the background of each memory. I am trying to not focus on the images of the past five weeks that I have of him. It is hard. But his laugh seems to be winning out so far.
Hopefully that and other happy memories will reign on the 19th so I can at least have a little bit of a nice memory of this coming birthday.
Until then, I'll keep singing some Blind Melon in my head:
Hey I'd like to daze away to aPlace like no one has knownIn a state of mind I could call mineThat only I could ownWhere I could hum a tune anytimeI choose, and then there is no such thing as timeWhere I can feel no pain just calm and saneWhat a place for one to find"I Wonder"Blind Melon