This past July was the 60th anniversary of my youngest uncle’s (Billy Harrington) passing from a horrible year-long battle with cancer. I remember it so well. He was always young and a bit husky, and then as the disease waged battle against him, he shrunk down to about 125 pounds, mostly bone. He had the look of cancer all over his body, and his face looked like that of death.
I watched him battle away at an enemy much too strong for him. I was 10 years old, and he was 37. Up until then, I thought dying was for the old, but slowly and unwillingly I saw death at an early age.
I can still remember that summer of ’59 over in Maplewood Square in Malden, where my grandmother had moved the family from Charlestown. I can still see how helpless my mother was. All she could do was watch with her large family. My Grandpa Harrington was still alive probably thinking what my mother thought: Why so young? The pain disappeared over time, but never the memories.
Once again, I am reliving that darkness. My nephew Dominic III is awaiting Heaven down in Austin, Texas, with his wife and kids. He has lived for over two years now with his own battle with cancer. It was looking good for a while, but now the disease seems to be doing to him what it did to my Uncle Billy.
The Bible says there is a time for living and a time for dying, a time to mourn and a time to cry. Right now, for my family, it is a time to say goodbye. By the time, you are reading this, I should be down in Texas saying my goodbyes with my nephew.
I haven’t been sleeping well lately because I keep thinking about all those memories I have of him growing up. Those memories will hopefully sustain all who loved him and myself. His mother and three sisters are going through hard times right now. However, I do remember something my Ma told me years ago about how all of us have our time and when it’s your TIME, it’s your TIME.
My mother was never afraid of living and never worried about her time. I think that’s a healthy way to view life. She took every day as a gift and laughed often. She never viewed life as a prison sentence. It was like a long vacation to her, and she knew vacations always end.
I am not looking forward to the days ahead for me and my family, but as they say and my mother said often, “None of us get out of here alive, so just enjoy the good times and enjoy your journey through this life.”
I can still see my mother’s smile as she moved through her life. She had good days and bad days, but never lost sight of her journey.
My nephew is strong and has become an example to his Uncle Sal right here and right now.