Uncle Harry's baptismal journey ended yesterday. He wasn't really my uncle, but he was a close family friend and I think he didn't want to be called Mr. Rosenberg. He watched us grow up; I played with his granddaughter; he taught me about Kentucky Fried Chicken :)
He would always stop to visit once I graduated from high school, moved away from home, and came back. My parents always told me that he would ask about me.
I was diagnosed with MS.
For awhile, you couldn't tell, or I could hide it by standing still. Eventually I used a walking stick, then a leg brace, then a wheelchair (due to being pregnant), then my daughter's stroller, then a walker, and usually a combo of things.
The tricky part is when I would add something. When I added the brace, it was emotional and I remember my doctor asking me if I was ok and if I was ready for this. This doctor really understands me - I can't hide my emotions like I can for most people.
I got the brace and let it sit in my closet. I used to do a big walk and there was a steep hill that used to frighten me. One day I decided to try using the brace. And suddenly the hill was no longer frightening - I was free.
With each tool I started using, I grew to learn they weren't bad things - they were great! With the wheelchair I could finally go to the mall or anywhere else I wanted.
But the obstacle was returning to places where people hadn't seen me in awhile. Often the reaction from those people was one of sympathy - my MS was worse. What they failed to see was the freedom I was gaining.
Because of varied reactions, I chose not to return to see many people with whom I grew up. I didn't want the stares of pity, or looks that something bad had happened when in reality, I was more free.
In making this decision, I realize how many people I did not see for a long time, like Uncle Harry. I never knew how they would react, so I missed a lot.
Now Uncle Harry is gone and I will decide whether to go to his funeral, because everyone will be there who grew up with me. So I asked a good friend if she thought I should go. "Absolutely," she said. "You need closure."
"But what about all those people?"
"They don't matter."
She right. I will go back. And perhaps, on other occasions, I will go back again.