This past weekend feels like it was three weekends ago. It seems like we drove all over this state when in reality we only drove out to East and North Texas for a wedding (the bride's 4th...lol) and a funeral, respectively. Both were good family time, yes, even the funeral but boy, am I exhausted today. Whew!
Guy's Uncle Stanley passed away at the ripe old age of 56. You see, Stanley was severely down syndrome and was never expected to live past the age of 6. His sweet mother (Guy's grandmother) took care of Stanley (and later, her ailing second husband) almost his entire life, up until she was 83 years old. Yes, you read that correctly. Oh, and all this while working outside of the home. She was an extraordinary woman. Stanley spent the last years of his life living in a state-run assisted living facility. We only saw him when his sister (who took over his care when her mother passed and who is an angel in her own right) would bring him to Guy's mother's house for various family gatherings and celebrations. I grew to love and, I admit, not be scared of, Uncle Stanley over the years. He was a sweet soul who loved repeatedly shaking your hand and gave loving hugs. Many loving hugs. heh His health was failing for all of the years I have known him and it really is a marvel that he lived as long as he did. In the end, his kidneys failed and just like that, he was no more.
As you can imagine, the services -- one graveside and one at the chapel on his campus -- were incredibly moving. I've never seen Stanley look so peaceful laying there in his beautiful casket and he's probably the loveliest deceased person I have ever seen. Yes, I have seen many and no, they never look like themselves.
The service on his campus was particularly touching. All of his friends came, all with their various disabilities and ailments. All sweet and amusing in their sweetness and quirks. And no, I'm not ashamed to admit that. I think we have a real problem in our culture with how we treat the disabled and I think all of this "respect" in the guise of "political correctness" is a poor attempt to hide our natural discomfort around the disabled. You know what? They are different and sometimes their "quirks" are amusing and we all need to accept that in a good natured way. I would never stand for the mistreatment of the disabled but we need to be honest with ourselves about what true compassion means. I think we put up a wall with all this thinly veiled indignance at pointing out the obvious. Anyway, I fell in love with a particularly sweet man with his scrunched up little face who was dressed up like a newsboy from the 20s and carried a bag just like one and a huge album of sorts that he was fascinated with. I wish I could have taken a picture. He was completely independent and seemed to know exactly what he was doing in his own magical world. Had I not been sitting on the other side of the room with our family, I might have liked to slide in to the bench right next to him and let myself get lost in that book right along with him. Who knows? It might have held the secret to the Universe. :)
As you might imagine, the tears were flowing. I've only seen Guy sob about 3 times during our entire 21 years of knowing each other (we met 21 years ago this month!): once during our short long-distance tenure when we were saying goodbye in the airport (yes, it was ridiculous & also, gorgeous), once when his own father passed away and yesterday. The girls had never seen him cry like that and they were definitely touched and a little shocked by it as anyone would be. Men don't cry, right? I don't think I've ever seen my father cry like that, though I've seen him cry once or twice, I'm sure. Guy later explained that he was overcome with relief at seeing where Stanley spent the last part of his life. How well taken care of he was. How many friends he had. How UNinstitution-like the facilities were. We thanked his caretakers and became very emotional over and over as they came to hug us and pay their respects. What amazing work they do and nary a drop of martyrdom or sacrifice. Quite the opposite, they kept expressing their gratitude at having known and loved Stanley and tearfully expressed how he touched THEIR lives. Unsung heroes, all of them.
So, that's it. A very emotionally-charged but lovely human experience for us all. I come away grateful for our family and for the amazing variety of people on this earth. The forgotten ones. The different ones. Thank God, we have been privvy to the diversity of humanity. We're all better for it. You're really missing something if you haven't had a hug like the ones only Stanley could give. If you haven't sat in a room full of beautiful souls locked inside broken bodies and minds. I come away feeling inspired and also, a little dejected.
"Normal" people, myself included, kind of suck.