Explaining a Loss

Last weekend my family suffered another tough loss. After a battle with cancer, my Uncle Steve passed away in his home surrounded by family.

Steve always seemed to have great stories. It could have been the fact that he traveled to places I may never go like Cuba or that he worked in film. He saw the beauty in people and places, where many would not. Though we were never very close, being that we lived in Colorado and he in Nebraska, I feel lucky to have had him in my life.


When we visited Nebraska, we always tried to make a point to stop by and see Steve. One of my favorite visits was just before we started having kids. We went out in the Old Market for drinks and some music. We laughed as we walked down the street and into the bar because it seemed that Steve know everyone we passed. The first time we visited after we had Ella, he was so excited he got out his camera and some lighting equipment to take pictures of her by the flowers in the backyard. It was so sweet.

When we got in the car to go to Nebraska for the funeral, I tried to explain to Ella what was going to happen. I told her that Uncle Steve went to heaven because the doctors couldn’t help him get better. After verifying that meant that we wouldn’t see him anymore, she said ok and that he would be ok because he’d see his mom and dad in heaven.

My sister-in-law Amber was nice enough to babysit the kids while we attended the wake. There were so many people gathered to pay their respects to a man that touched their lives. We continued the celebration at our family bar in the Old Market.

The next day was the funeral. This was the first funeral that Ella would be old enough to experience. Though I told her that some people will be sad and she may see myself, her grandparents, uncle and aunts cry, we are there to celebrate Uncle Steve. I was hoping that was enough to prepare her.

I went to the church early so that I could review my reading. The entire time I’d held it together, but when Steve’s son walked in and asked one of his uncles to help him tie his tie, I had tears well up. All of a sudden I was struck with such grief for Jack’s loss. His dad won’t be there to teach him to tie a tie, how to shave or how to drive. I feel grief for both Jack and Steve for the experiences they won’t get to have together, but remember that they did have good ones while he was leaving.

When we gathered in the side room at the church with the casket before our family walk down the aisle of the church, Ella asked about the big box with flowers on it. I quietly told her that Uncle Steve was in it. She was obviously confused but saved more questions for the processional to the cemetery.

When we got in the car the flood gates of questions opened up. She wanted to know why Uncle Steve was in a box if he was in heaven. How did he get into the box? Why they were going to put the box in the ground and how they would do so? We did our best to explain but it was hard to explain the concept of heaven yet a body being in a coffin to bury. How you explain that to three year old, I have no idea.

She handled it well, though questions have continued. After the burial everyone gathered for food and more memory sharing. Steve’s best friend made a video tribute which was great.

Steve will be missed.

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