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.
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.