The value of a life

After over a decade of no contact with my uncle, having to answer “no” every time a cousin would ask if I have heard from my uncle, and enduring outrage from a his daughter for not being a part of her life and including her in my family earlier this year (I don’t know where she was to include her), my uncle appeared last week out of the blue.

Over the course of three days, I spoke with his daughter, sister (my mom), cousins, doctors, nurses, social workers, friend, roommate, and the man who took him off the street. But I never got to speak to him. What could I say? I doubted he’d answer any questions I had and even if he did, he’d lied so much through my lifetime, I didn’t know if I could believe him.

I ordered his urn, figured out where his body should be taken, and arranged for his belongings to be picked up. I was thanked by a lot of people for stepping up. The whole time, I kept wondering, “Does this man deserve this?”

My uncle spent most of his life homeless, was an addict, disappeared from his families lives, only met his granddaughter as a baby…and again two days before his death. He’d caused more heartache than imaginable.

And about the time I would be ready to say “Fuck it. Fuck him. This isn’t my problem!” I’d remember my grandparents. And I’d remember it is my problem. He chose to turn his back on his family, not the other way around, and now was no time for us to start.

In talking to the people who knew him the last few years of his life, I came to know not much had changed. He was still a hurting boy who lost his mom too soon. He was so smart, but not in a way our town’s education system knew how to handle, so they didn’t. He was ill-equipped to be an adult. He numbed his pain with drugs and alcohol. He was heavily into conspiracy theory, aliens, and the occult.

One friend shared, “I think he was ashamed- of who he’d been, who he’d become, who he still was.” He didn’t get out of bed much his last year. His hygiene suffered, but why wouldn’t it. If you feel unworthy, you’re not going to respect yourself.

His death blind-sided me. We hadn’t yet buried a cousin who’d died the week before. One of my mom’s neighbors was killed two weeks prior. And my grandmother died in May. Suffice to say I have thought a tremendous amount about death… and life.

“We mistake our biography for our biology.” -John O’Donohue

In all four of those deaths, the people were partially products of their environments and partially products of their own self-limiting story, mindset, beliefs, and behaviors. They all had issues and if it wasn’t clear in their life, it certainly was in their death.

Hurt people hurt; they hurt themselves, they hurt others, and often both.

But what if you chose to rewrite your story? What if you chose to take immediate accountability and responsibility for your life and all the actions and inactions based on self-loathing and lack of self-worth?

What if you chose to be worthy enough to start loving yourself again?

Would you be willing to accept help simply because someone loves you and not because you are worthy or not?

Would you get up and take action, not take no for an answer or validation of unworthiness?

Would you start showing up in your life knowing the past is done but the future isn’t yet, so the present is where we need to play?

Would you take this declaration with me?

Or is it all too much because people like you aren’t like people like me; you’re not ___ enough? Personally, I call bullshit on that. It’s a lame cop out and you know it. It’s time to make a different chose, to write a new story, to start from here, now.

The question is, will you?

(Who do you know that needs to see this? Please share. We need more light, accountability, responsibility and love in this world, not more pain, addiction, and death.)