Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

My uncle Wayne died today at 74.

with 6 comments

With great sadness I pass along this news . . . my uncle Wayne, who was a brilliant man who’d been a husband, a father, a psychologist, a military veteran, and much more, died today at the age of 74.

Two-plus months ago, my uncle went into the hospital for a heart operation.  It was thought that if he had the operation, and it was successful, it would buy him a few more years of comfortable living.  At the time, my uncle was suffering from congestive heart failure and a number of other ailments, and he wasn’t enjoying being slowed down by illness (as he’d always been active, before), so he felt he had nothing to lose and everything to gain.  So he had the operation.

At any rate, he was on the operating table for twelve to fourteen hours, I believe (I may be misremembering), and it took him nearly two weeks to come out of the coma he was in after surviving that operation.  I know my aunt was told he might not come out of the coma and if he didn’t, they needed to talk with her about “pulling the plug” — that is, ending his life — but fortunately he did come out of the coma.

When he did, though, he didn’t always know his wife, and he was paralyzed on one side of his body.  Physical and occupational therapy was started, which made my uncle very tired — I heard all of this from my Mom, his sister, who heard it directly from my aunt himself — and he had some good days and some bad (the worst being when he was diagnosed with MRSA in his lungs, which caused pneumonia and worse).

They tried a lung procedure a few days ago to see if that would give him some ease of breathing, because he wasn’t able to breathe without the respirator and even with it, his breath came short and fast.  (Once again, I was not there — this is all third-hand, but seems accurate.  I truly wish I were not among the vast numbers of America’s unemployed or I’d have found a way to take my mother to see her brother, as he lived in another state that was over 600 miles away.)  The procedure did not work.

My Mom got the call from my aunt yesterday that the doctors had told my aunt that my uncle Wayne could endure no more, and that his death was imminent.  Then we waited, while I did my best not to disrupt my father’s 74th birthday celebration (my parents are long-divorced) because while he knew and liked my uncle, he wouldn’t have appreciated hearing anything bad on his birthday.  (Trust me.  This was for the best.)

And today, the news came a bit past 12:00 noon that my uncle Wayne had died.

I feel numb, maybe because I was hoping for a miracle.  Wayne had rallied at least twice before and I knew he wanted to live, very strongly.  But in this case, he just wasn’t able to do any more . . . he had to leave his wife, and his children, and his grandchildren, and his sister (my Mom), and his nieces and nephews, etc., behind.

My uncle was not religious, though he went to the Unitarian Universalist church for the fellowship it offered.  He was agnostic, and as such I’d not want to wish him to be in a positive afterlife if that’s truly not what he wanted.  (Some people just want to end after this life, and not have an afterlife of any sort, and I believe that my uncle was most likely in this category.)  So my usual well-wishes, hollow though they tend to be, are not adequate to this occasion in any case . . . all I can do is wish my aunt well, which I have done, and pray that somehow, some way, all the distress she endured over the past ten-plus weeks will be worth it to her.  Somehow.

I am a widow and I would never, ever wish this state on anyone else.  It is incredibly difficult to wake up every day, alone, wishing like fire that my beloved husband, Michael, will somehow be beside me, alive again, and that everything I’ve endured is a horrible dream.  I’ve even wished, at times, that I were in a coma and that I was dreaming all of this — that he’s alive, somehow and in some way, and that I will rejoin him and everything will be as it was.

But because I do believe in a positive afterlife, I at least have that to hope for, while my aunt, it seems to me, may not be able to hope for that (though I hope in her case that I’ve misread my uncle and that she can — she knows him far, far better than I ever could).  And I do wish for that positive afterlife, for more long walks with my husband, for more conversation, for more thoughts on books and baseball and “life, the universe and everything,” what I was blessed to have for the three years I knew Michael and the two years, two months and twenty-eight days we had of marriage on this plane of existence.

Life is short, folks.  It truly is.  And that’s why I wish those of you who still have your spouses or significant others to enjoy them to the fullest and appreciate them as much as you possibly can even on the bad days.  Even though the economy is bad, and you may be suffering financially like never before, try to be grateful for the love you have all around you, and store up those memories.

I’ve found that you can live a long time on them, if need be . . . .

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 27, 2010 at 8:07 pm

6 Responses

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  1. My deepest condolences, Barb. I’m glad your faith is a comfort. It seems especially hard when we lose loved ones around the holidays, too. Your family is in my prayers.


    November 27, 2010 at 8:37 pm

  2. Thanks, Barb. If there is a positive afterlife, Wayne’s certainly worthy of it.

    Buddhists see life as a cycle of suffering, and death as a release, perhaps to a higher plane where there is no more pain or longing. Wherever Wayne is, I hope he’s not suffering anymore. I miss him, and like anyone you miss and can’t find, I just hope he’s all right.

    I know Jan must be devastated, but because I barely have words to express what I’m feeling, I know that whatever I say probably won’t help. I know Wayne and Jan loved each other and supported each other, truly “in sickness and in health.” And though I know love changes with death, it never dies.




    November 28, 2010 at 10:42 am

    • Thanks, Jenni. I agree with you — that’s how Michael saw the world (as he was, mostly, Buddhist in outlook), and it’s why I know that in my husband’s case I can wish for a positive afterlife. I’m sure Michael is there. I know he was worth everything, and was a worthy person, and so was Uncle Wayne — but in his case I don’t know if that’s what he wanted, and that hamstrings me a bit.

      Granted, I don’t think wishing a person’s spirit well is wrong. It’s just that Wayne was a complex man and I don’t want to do the wrong thing even though he’d probably be bemused by the whole exercise.

      What I know I can do is wish Jan well, which I’ve done, and wish all of the cousins and second cousins well (which I’ve tried to do, at least with the ones I know how to contact).

      Love means everything, Jenni. And in this case, I know Jan tried everything in her power to help Wayne; they just didn’t get what they were looking for, which was a few more solid years of health in order to enjoy each other’s company some more.

      *hugs* back.

      Barb Caffrey

      November 28, 2010 at 1:30 pm

  3. ::hugs:: from me and Sandie, Barb. May the happy memories of life well-lived eventually overcome the sorrow.

    B. Ross Ashley

    November 28, 2010 at 2:14 pm

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