Last week, on Monday afternoon, Hubby got the call from home that our nephew had died. It was and continues to be brutal, surreal… He was 25 years old. I’ll call him “Hunter”.
Hunter was funny; he was disarming; he was loving. Everyone agreed, he had a gift for putting people at ease. A room could be full of tension, and he could tell a joke at just the right moment, making everyone crack up despite themselves… He was the favorite uncle to a cadre of adoring kids. Our own kids loved him: On our summer visit, Babyboy, always wary of new people, let Hunter lift him up and overhead, laughing… and Babygirl, who doesn’t like dudes, giggled with his tickling and then padded after him through the house. He was Pied Piper for all the little ones.
Hunter had been in recovery from a drug habit. It started in high school, prescription drugs. He’d gotten in some trouble, then done his time, and he’d gotten clean. He loved hunting and fishing, and was working at a outdoor enthusiasts’ outfitting store.
But he was carrying around alot of grief, and somehow, he fell back into drugs.
It was June 2011 when his sister died. I’ve written about her: “Angel”, she was a bright and beautiful ICU nurse and mom. She was the victim of domestic violence, 29 years old. The loss of her is an everyday ache. Her spirit was so powerfully vibrant, sometimes it’s just so hard to believe that she’s not here anymore.
Now, there is one remaining sibling, I’ll call her “Summer” (and she’ll totally make fun of my pen names, I know it, and that’s OK. I’m not a novelist ). She’s whip-smart, sweet and strong, well-read and street-savvy, Holy awesome mom and get-outta-my-way-get-it-done practical. Total respect and admiration for this young lady (and I’m not just saying that ’cause she might read this).
Hunter and Angel were close. When he was struggling and troubled, Angel could talk to him and reach him in a way no one else could. He let her talk to him, even yell at him. He listened to her, his oldest sister.
At his wake, Summer stood and described how the bond between her oldest and youngest siblings bothered her at times; but now, she finds it comforting, because they’re together.
Then their dad stood and described how someone had had a vision that upon Hunter’s entry into heaven, Angel had smacked him upside the head and gave him a lecture, starting with, “What have you DONE?”
Now, if someone had said they had a vision of Hunter and Angel hugging right away, I’m not sure anyone would have bought it. But Angel delivering a hard headsmack and a few choice words? THAT we’d all believe. It fits. And it is comforting. As his dad continued: Hunter never got over Angel’s death. Now, they’re together, and finally, he’s at peace.
They buried him in camoflage, which also fit perfectly. Hunter never wore a suit a day in his life. In his obituary, it reads that “He loved the outdoors. He loved hunting and fishing with his true friends,” and that really is true. He was a duck call aficionado. His nephews, Summer’s boys, wore camo to the wake, proudly and in solidarity. It was heartwarming to see, and also heartrending, as they bent over the casket time and again to say small parting words to their favorite uncle, and to cry a little bit more.
Hunter’s parents are the pinnacle of strength, and my prayers and deepest respect goes to them. What do you say to parents who have lost two of their three children? There are no words; there are no words. These are good people. They did everything right. Hunter had both parents, both employed, engaged in the community, highly regarded and respected folks; he had both sets of grandparents, and a loving extended family, all right there in the same nice American town. There’s just no reason for what happened.
Someone said, at some point this week: “It’s so terribly wrong to see a young person ripped from their family” and that’s stuck with me. Their losses have been sudden and so, so wrong… We hope to be there for them, to join the many people who knew and loved Hunter and Angel in being there for them.
I asked Summer what could we do for her, and she said, “Go be with your kids. That’s what everyone should do.”
And so we take that lesson, and all these memories, and move on, with love.
Katie and Christopher, we love you so much.