Phone Calls After My Uncle’s Death

CN: Suicide, grief, family stuff

My uncle died by suicide, last Monday. Mom called to tell me that night. It wasn’t totally unexpected, though I know Mom and others tried very hard for a long time to help. I was never close with him, haven’t seen him in around 20 years, and we weren’t close while I was growing up. For ME, this isn’t a personal loss.

But for Mom it is clearly a profound loss. She sounded vulnerable and heartbroken on the phone on Monday in a way I don’t think I’ve really heard from her before. It was, I think, the first time she ever really reached out to me for emotional support. She called me before my brother. She didn’t call to pass on information. She called because she needed to hear that I’m safe, that I love her, and that I’m here for her.

I told her I’m so sorry. I told her I love her, and that Spouse and I are safe and well. I told her I’d come to the funeral with her if she wanted (she doesn’t want me to, for complicated but good reasons). I told her to let me know if there is anything else I can do. I told her that I unfortunately know something about going through this kind of loss, and I know it’s particularly hard.

I never want to hear that pain in Mom’s voice again. I wish I could protect her from all of the loss that is likely to come in her life as she ages. But I am also so grateful to have the kind of relationship with her now that she will call me when she needs comfort. I want to be here for her. Mom and I struggled and worked hard to build a good relationship. My childhood was hard and we were adversaries much more often than allies. As time passes we continue to learn and grow, now as more than just allies, but as companions.

I ache for Mom’s loss, and for the pain my uncle must have been in. I am also incredibly grateful that she and I are in a place now where I can be there for her. Families are complicated, but I am glad I have mine.

Phone Calls After My Uncle’s Death

Missing Niki

When I started playing the Mass Effect series I named my Commander Shepherd “Niki.” Niki Massey was such a geek. She loved those games, especially around the time I played through them, and naming my character for her felt appropriate and I loved and gushing about the game together on Twitter. I was so grateful to her for talking about her love for those games because I would not have gotten to enjoy them without her.

Others have written beautifully about who Niki was, but I knew her best as a geek. Niki and I first met at Convergence, when I was a timid newbie to the Skepchick network, and she was incredibly friendly to me there. Two years later when I returned to Convergence we geeked out about her new costume together and shared in our mix of both loving, and struggling with, the party atmosphere. Niki understood my conflict with that perhaps better than anyone else, but over and over she dressed fabulously (I adored her cool outerspace dress) and turned out to party because she cared so deeply for her community of geeky atheist friends.

When we talked it was about video games and cats. Niki was accepting and welcoming of me and my friendship in an intense way I treasure when I find it. Everyone who knew her knew that Niki accepted no bullshit, but she was also able to see good in people and accepted me without hesitation.

What Niki was able to accept so easily in me and others, she struggled with accepting in herself. It is sometimes harder to deal with our own weaknesses or struggles than those others experience, and she was no exception to this. She could be HARD on herself, and reassuring her of her value didn’t always work. Now, though, all I want is more time to tell her over and over how important she is to me.

But I can’t.

Missing Niki