Faster than the speed of life

My mom had a huge family. If I’m not mistaken, originally, there were 15 siblings, all in all. I’m not kidding, our Christmas parties in the 70’s used to be bigger than the entire neighborhood itself. And, I had fond memories of those days.

Today, only four of them are left. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to God for keeping my mom, not only alive, but very well, to this day. Her family history isn’t exactly what I would call pleasant. In fact, it is extremely tragic, in my opinion. I believe, two of her siblings died from birth; another two would die unexpectedly at different times; one would be kidnapped, never to be seen again; and, still another one would be murdered in his sleep.

Sometimes, I feel for my mom. It’s not her fault. But what a waste of life, I thought.

Today, I thought of one of her brothers. An uncle of mine whom I’ve only known from a distance. We were never close, for some reason. However, he was one whom I thought had started out with an incredibly blessed life. To start, he had married into a ridiculously wealthy family. They ran thriving Vegas-style businesses such as casinos and night clubs (remember those?), among others. I remember when I was little, we used to get invited to my cousins’ birthday parties. And I would overhear phone conversations regarding the party plan; that we would bring certain gifts, arrive at a certain time, and that it would be held at the white house. The white house? Oh, it’s what my uncle’s place was fondly called back then. When I saw it for the first time, sure enough, those gigantic Greek pillars made it seem like it was a presidential mansion, indeed. And if that wasn’t enough, there were Cadillacs on one side and a couple more on the other whose names sounded a bit German and Italian to me. But what really blew my mind, was that my five year old cousin’s bedroom was big enough to play ball in without actually breaking a China. I mean, it was unspeakably huge! I never forgot that to this day.

Years have passed since, and I haven’t heard much from or about him and his family until fairly recently. My sister had told me that he eventually became so stinking rich. Needless to say, he had also fallen into the usual traps that money brings, such as substance abuse, gambling and marital unfaithfulness. He had a child out of one of his affairs. His marriage eventually came to an end and was kicked out of the (white) house. He lost all his money and was homeless for years. I was told that he camped out in the back of his old beat-up Lincoln Continental. Though, usually, it was just parked somewhere for long periods of time, because he didn’t have money for gas. That is, unless someone (like my sister’s husband. God bless him) actually thought of him, paid him a visit and handed him some cash, just so he could eat.

To make a long story short, things didn’t improve one bit. In fact, he died abruptly. The doctor said his lungs were black like charcoal. He was in his late fifties, I think. And, it was just a few years ago.

What a tragic story. Though, much like with my relationship with him, I could only mourn his death from a distance. I think of his life. The beauty. The abuse. And, the pain. I can only imagine.

I remember the few times I had to come up to greet him during family occasions. I was always terrified. He wasn’t exactly the approachable type. He was way up there and I was way down here. As if I wasn’t worthy of him. Even to this day, when I think of those times, I feel awkward about it.

But what does it matter now? He’s gone. Life is so quick. Though, I’m learning that sometimes, we can easily live life faster than we should. Whatever happened to stopping and smelling the coffee? Or was it the roses? I’m definitely in no position to judge my late uncle. But when I thought about him today, I couldn’t help but think of a parallel universe. Maybe, he could have been more grateful for what he was given in the beginning. Parents who broke their backs to afford him a good life and education. A beautiful and wealthy wife that truly loved him for who he was. Beautiful children who desperately needed him to be the example of how life should be lived. And, even luxury that one can only ever dream of. If this was the case, maybe things would’ve turned out different for him. And for everyone else involved.

I mean, he had the cake, the icing and the cherry on top! If only I could pick the crumbs from under the table, I’d be in heaven.

But maybe, I’m really the lucky one here. Because I do not have the unnecessary distractions that could keep me from slowing down and enjoying life at a pace that was meant for me. I wake up in the morning and remember to smell my coffee before taking a sip. Much like I remember to smell my food before I start to eat. Much like I remember to close my eyes before I listen to music. Much like I remember to drive slower so I can enjoy my trip. And be safe, at the same time.

I believe, if we don’t go faster than the speed of life, it can give us a lot more than we can ever ask for.