His Last Words
My Uncle Rob was the first of his fourteen siblings to die.
Skin cancer that moved to his brain.
One of the devastating results of a Florida childhood,
Growing up in an era where tanned skin was considered healthy.
Of the fourteen, he was the quiet one.
Contemplative. Inward. Introverted.
A police officer--
In every large Irish Catholic family, there’s always one.
My grandparents faced their worst fear--
Outliving a child.
Uncle Rob’s death was the greatest test of their faith,
and 70 years of marriage.
When Uncle Rob was mentioned in a conversation,
they smiled and their misty eyes looked forward.
Somewhere, in the recess of memory, they saw him again
as a little child, running down the Daytona shoreline.
Two years later, it was grandpa’s turn,
to experience the dimming of his days.
He slept in a hospital bed, quiet and peaceful
And he barely made a sound.
On his final days, he fell silent.
Then, just before his death,
with a couple of Uncle Rob’s brothers surrounding their father,
Grandpa returned to lucidity,
For just 10 seconds.
He opened his eyes, smiled, and warmly greeted his son.
“Oh! Hi Rob!” he exclaimed,
just before taking his final breath.
His last words.
Father brings son into this world.
Son welcomes father to the next one.
Mary Ann Reilly
3/12/2017 10:31:41 am
Had I not experienced the recent death of my husband I would not be such a believer in the mystical aspects of our universe. My husband too talked to the dead in the weeks leading to his own death. There is so much more than we know here. I am sorry for your losses.
3/12/2017 11:18:49 am
My husband spoke of those on the other side days before he passed as though dreaming. This is such a lovely piece, gentle yet bittersweet. I lost my husband, but I cannot imagine the pain your grandparents felt in losing there son. What comfort in his last words.
3/12/2017 10:46:25 am
Loss lingers, always. But here, with this writing of the poem and the sharing of the image, your uncle remains with this world, in some fashion. That's a power of the writer.
3/12/2017 01:12:08 pm
You gave the story a loving and hopeful ending.
3/12/2017 01:31:45 pm
Brian, I was overwhelmed with so many emotions, reading this poem. I did not expect your close for this piece. It brought tears to my eyes - such a wonderful memory to cherish and make permanent through writing about it and passing it on.
3/12/2017 02:13:10 pm
Wow. What a powerful piece...and a powerful memory!
3/12/2017 03:43:16 pm
Chills. I hope your family found solace in those last words as they mourn both losses.
3/12/2017 04:27:12 pm
A powerful piece. The black and white photos set the tone right off the bat.
3/12/2017 04:35:25 pm
This was moving, and comforting. It's hopeful and helpful to believe that there will be someone to greet us as we transition.
3/12/2017 04:49:34 pm
What a beautiful way to make a sad moment transcendent. So sorry for your loss.
3/12/2017 07:46:17 pm
Beautiful and moving. I like to think that we will have a loved one escort us to the other side when the time comes.
3/12/2017 11:42:32 pm
Loved this.. ending was perfection, thank you.
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About the Author
Brian Kissel is an Associate Professor of education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. His focus is writing instruction. He lives in North Carolina with his wife, Hattie and three kiddos: Charlie, Ben, and Harriet.