When Words Just Aren't Enough...

For the past two weeks, I've been trying to decide how to best write about the death of my uncle on July 1st. It was sudden--he went to the doctor for stomach pains, discovered he had tumors on his liver caused by untreated terminal colon cancer, and passed away less than a week later. He asked that there not be a funeral or a memorial service. He passed away about 12 hours before my husband and my planned visit to say goodbye. In lieu of services, there seems to be a lot left unsaid.

But for the first time in my life, words seemed to fail me. I am a reader and a writer, so this failure confounded me. Unable to say something eloquent, I said nothing.

This past week, my husband I took my nieces to Lake Nebagamon in Wisconsin with his family and very close family friends. For me, it seemed eerily reminiscent of the previous year at the lake, when we were all mourning the death of one of the members of the family with whom we share the week. But somehow, a quiet lake in Northern Wisconsin on a balmy summer evening seems like the perfect place to find peace.

For those of you unfamiliar with Northern Minnesota/Wisconsin in the summer, the lies of this being the tundra dissolve. The days turn hot, hazy and humid. Life (and indeed, time itself) seems to slow down in a pleasant way. And daylight stretches until long past dinnertime. The sun sets in a pale orange sky sometime between 8:00 and 9:00 at night. The quiet and solitude of a lake at 9:30--as the sky blazes orange, pink, and gold--is unparalleled in its beauty and tranquility.

As I sat at the shore, watching the sun lower itself into the tree tops, listening to the leaves rustle around me, I heard another sound every Minnesotan automatically associates with summer--the call of a loon. It is impossible to precisely describe the haunting trill of this bird. Native American beliefs held that the loon call--perhaps because of its impossible to describe otherworldliness--was the voice of the recently departed as they attempted to find their paths into the ether. When I heard this call across the vast lake as darkness began to wrapped around me, I smiled. And I felt some semblance of peace approaching.

Sometimes, no matter how eloquent we are, words cannot say what we feel. Sometimes words just aren't enough. They feel hollow, empty, impotent.

In those times--like the time I sat on the dock listening to the loon call waft across the water--nature sometimes says it for us.

Rest in Peace, Uncle Ron.

Always, always we will hear you calling.


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