Mourning the Loss of What Wasn’t

A friend of mine who has a strong social media presence recently posted on Facebook about how we filter our lives on social media — the facade that is often put up to show how great our lives are. He made a point to say that while he aims to be positive, he is also real. Everyone has stressful days or bad things happen to them. His point was to say, “Hey, I keep a positive mindset, but shitty things happen in my life, too. You’re not alone.”

While I’m well aware of this fact about him, or any of my other friends on social media, it was relevant for me that particular morning. The previous night, my uncle passed away after a 10 year battle with colon cancer. I wasn’t particularly close to my uncle. Then again, he wasn’t really close to many people outside of his immediate family. But growing up, he was a fixture in my life. I spent summer after summer at his house hanging out with my aunt and cousins. My aunt doesn’t have any daughters, so I was the next best thing.

She took me shopping and let me wear makeup. I spent endless summer days at the ballpark watching my cousins play baseball and listening to my aunt and uncle scream, holler, and cheer. She took me to swimming lessons and let me watch movies my mom and dad would never let me watch – I promised I wouldn’t say anything (Sorry, Aunt Lyl! Secret’s out!)

All through these memories, my Uncle Wes is on the fringe. A few things I knew about Uncle Wes: He loved music and even owned a guitar, though I never remember hearing him play. But he had a classic sound system all the neighbors could enjoy. He loved his hair and his cowboy hats. One summer he taught me and my cousins how to play 5 card stud. He worked for “the union”, which, as a kid, meant we got tickets to see WWF or the CMA Awards dress rehearsals. And we got lots of free stuff from the trade shows that came through town. One summer we had an endless supply of fun sized bags of Spicy Doritos. Those are still a guilty pleasure to this day.

It’s always heartbreaking when someone close to you dies. But when someone dies who you aren’t that close to or you wish you were closer to, it’s a different kind of tragic. You no longer have the opportunity to learn more about them or build a stronger relationship. There’s always this time of mourning. But rather than mourning the loss of something you had, you’re mourning the loss of something you didn’t. You’re mourning the lost opportunity of what could have been. I’ve felt this particular sense of loss more times than I care to count. Another word for it: Regret.

Now, if I would have reached out, called more, or spent more time with my Uncle Wes, would we have been closer or had a better relationship? Honestly, maybe not. But, maybe so. Did we have a bad relationship? Not really – in fact, we had gotten closer over the last 10 years.

I guess my point is to spend more time with people you love. You may not have the same lifestyles or see eye-to-eye on things, but take the time to show you care. Make a 5 minute phone call or send a 2 second text – because you just never know when you won’t be able to anymore.

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