Friday, November 27, 2009

Holidays not happy for all

One of the things I have learned from two-plus decades as a reporter-type person is that there are no guarantees when it comes to life.

People can go at any time, at any age, for just about any reason, and there doesn’t have to be any excuse for it.

IT’S NOT LIKE death takes a holiday during the holidays. All too often, people can die on or in proximity to a holiday to the point where that date gets “ruined,” so to speak, for the surviving family members.

That point got reinforced to me earlier this week when I wrote for a newspaper an obituary of a 37-year-old man whose funeral services will be held Friday and Saturday. Some might think it sad that Thanksgiving, a time when we’re supposed to be grateful for what we have, is when one family will always remember their loss.

Actually, it is more than one family, since the death of the son of Juan Andrade, head of the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, is far from the only one to occur in recent days.

Joaquin Andrade is far from the only person on Friday on this planet who is the focus of activity at a funeral home. But I can sympathize with the Andrade family, as my own family managed to get hit with a Thanksgiving holiday death just a few years ago.

SO I TOO can understand how this particular day, when some people want us to think that the focus of the world is on commerce and shopping, might be less than a happy occasion.

It was just a few years ago that my eldest cousin, Gary, suffered an accident on the Saturday following Thanksgiving while doing repairs to his home – an accident that wound up putting him into a coma for a couple of days before dying.

As it turns out, parts of my cousin live on, as his next of kin approved the use of organs from his body for transplant into people who needed the parts in order to continue living themselves.

But even in that aspect there is a bit of sadness from my family’s perspective, as my mother is a woman who suffers from kidney troubles and who in recent years has been waiting for a replacement. My aunt kept in mind that her sister could use the kidney, and the medical and legal procedures were initiated to see about transplant.

THERE WAS A period of a few hours when I thought my brother and I were on the verge of rushing our mother to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood so she could undergo the surgery for transplant.

Ultimately, my cousin’s kidney was not a close-enough match to my mother for the surgery to be possible. My cousin from California wound up having his kidney inserted into someone from the Chicago area, and I’m sure that person and his/her family are thankful.

From my end, I remember these next few days as the anniversary of when I lost my eldest cousin AND got to see my mother worked up into an emotional frenzy, only to see her get nothing in the end.

To this day, my mother still awaits the day when a matching kidney will be found, and endures the hassle of dialysis treatments three times a week in order to keep herself alive.

NOW I KNOW some people will argue that I should be thankful my mother was still alive, and that I was able to enjoy a Thanksgiving Day dinner this week with her and my brother.

They’d be right. I should feel good that my mother can generate the physical strength to keep going, and also make plans about how she’d like to do things up a little bigger than usual for Christmas this year.

I also realize the timing of my mother’s situation was a complete fluke.

Nobody deliberately did anything that made it coincide with Thanksgiving, which means that it would be wrong to think that someone is responsible for the thoughts of my cousin and my mother that are going to pop into my head every year for the rest of my life – which could end tomorrow or could last another forty or so years.


But one will have to excuse me if I can’t get all worked up on Friday over the thought of rushing out to a shopping mall to fight my way through the crowds to check out all the sales promoted in the advertising fliers that cluttered up my Thanksgiving Day newspapers.

For me, this is the day that I speculate in my mind about the fleeting quality of life. The idea of engaging in commerce seems so trivial, particularly since I have just under a month to do my holiday shopping (unless I don’t make it to the holidays, in which case it doesn’t matter.

One other point I should make is that my cousin’s memory does live on through the Internet. My aunt helped create a foundation (at in my cousin’s memory that provides comfort for those people who lose a loved one – particularly if young children are involved in the mourning process. Which at least creates some meaningful purpose out of sadness.


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