I am an only child.
While being so is a topic for discussion in itself, it's just the beginning of how alone I feel today. I am the last one standing, you see. The last of the Hughes family - of our little clan anyway. When my grandmother left this earth on Saturday, she did so to join the rest of them in heaven; her grandson, her husband and her two sons.
I had a brother once. He lived for two days when I was three years old. I remember being excited and preparing for the new baby by practicing with my dolls as any good big sister-to-be does; slinging them around carelessly by one arm and wrapping them up so tightly in a blanket they were sure to suffocate. His name was Jeffrey. I lay babies breath on his grave each year and can't wait to meet him someday.
My grandfather was a kind man who was soft spoken and laughed much. He sang gospel in a tenor voice that would make birds stop to listen. He battled weight and complications with diabetes until he lost the war when I was nine.
My uncle was an absolute blast. Forever young, incredibly handsome and always rebellious, he was full of funny character and life. Still an ornery little boy when my parents met, he made an annoyance of his pesky self on their dates together. My mother once told her future mother-in-law, "If I ever had a child like that....!" to which was replied back to her, "Be careful what you are wishing for!". Four years later I was born - the spitting image and personality of my uncle. He was snatched from us as a result of a motorcycle wreck when I was nineteen. His body tried to hang on for a few weeks after that fateful accident, but his brain and spirit were already gone. My grandmother was forced to make the impossible decision of "pulling the plug". In taking one life, they both gave it to so many others by donating organs through the Midwest Transplant Network. Truly a selfless gift that lives on still today.
My father passed away just seven months ago. He was a complicated contradiction between being the life of the party and withdrawing into his own cavernous self; the sociable guy that others wanted to be around vs. the introvert that would rather shut out the world in his basement by drowning it all out with headphones or watch a movie alone in the darkness. He was smart; dictionary freakshow smart. He was a collector of all things. All things were of interest to him. He knew everything there was to know about nothing at all. I loved to visit my dad and marvel at his 'stuff'. As I grew up we grew apart, probably because we are so much alike. My dad was a lymphoma survivor and an over-comer of addictions; strong man in body, mind, opinions and convictions. The treatment required to save his life in one decade had made him weak for the next. Before he died he had made amends with most - including me. He died in peace.
Since that time, my grandma had just grown weary. She had taken medicine to get her through her grief that reacted poorly with her body. As toxins filled her blood she had frequent talks with her boys. She missed them fiercely and cursed the fate that had left her behind. She had me. She had her husband of 35 years, my step-grandfather. She loved us both. But she was called home. I am happy that she is finally happy. That was my reaction after the initial shock and tears as I got the news after work, alone in the parking lot on Friday. An odd and almost inappropriate laughter came over me - hysteria had taken over maybe - delirium. But I could picture them all together again like a snapshot of bygone days. They are all now together in spirit and in body, laid to rest together in the family plot cemetery.
I am sad that I was unable to have a baby of my own before they were gone. That would have made them all so happy. It's all my grandma talked about! But maybe with all those angels in heaven looking down on me - my purpose will definitely soon be revealed. Maybe in being the last one standing now, it is only to make me appreciate what is to come even more. I can't wait to find out! And when that plan is revealed, I will surely be laughing like crazy as tears of joy overcome me; and the warm love of family will surround me again.