I liked my uncle. He played guitar and let his dog eat cake off the table in the middle of parties and told inappropriate jokes. He loved my aunt fiercely (which was slightly awkward for everyone around them), only drank Napa Cab and listened to pre-creepy era Michael Jackson. When I introduced him to guys I was dating, he tried to trick them into announcing they were gay in Tagalog. He was sarcastic and a little vain, and he wore turtlenecks and gold. He also had a karaoke machine -- the old-school kind with the laser disc. (Your mind was just blown, wasn't it?)
My uncle outlived the doctor's prediction, but the cancer still won. And when he knew he was dying, he refused to wear Depends because he wanted to die in actual pants.
I'm in L.A. now, and the funeral is tomorrow. I dread it. I don't grieve in public, and funerals -- especially the extremely Catholic Filipino ones that involve more hours of praying on your knees than I ever thought possible -- scare me because they never seem to celebrate a person's life and instead are so focused on the incredible loss everyone else is experiencing. (Shouldn't we be drinking Napa Cab and singing the karaoke version of "Billy Jean" and wearing turtlenecks?)
I worry this makes me a heartless asshole, like I'm losing some kind of grief contest because I hate crying in public and don't take comfort in saying the rosary over and over again. But my emotions happen in their own way: Underwater during a swim workout. In the car while commuting. On the couch with a cat in my lap. And I think a lot about death and what it means and how really everything is so finite. And I find myself calling people I love and saying, literally: "Please don't die. Just please don't die." As if my begging has any sort of power.
I don't believe in an afterlife. Or reincarnation (although if reincarnation did exist, I was definitely a cat at some point). I think we get one shot, and what we do with what we have is a very, very important thing.
And you have to salute a man who really wanted to wear his pants.