There is No Replacement for That.

Getting old is not easy.

I ran into some friends last week. We talked about our health issues, our friends’ health issues, and our friends who recently died.

“The days of weddings and baby showers are over,” I said.

“Yeah,” someone agreed. “Now it’s just funerals.”

I’m on my way to one such funeral – but this time, it hit closer to home. This time, it’s my uncle – my dad’s older brother – who is gone.

And that’s what it feels like; he’s just gone. He always lived far away from me, but he was always there when we went to visit. Now he’s not even there, and quite honestly “gone” just doesn’t seem fair, or right. It doesn’t even make any sense.

But I tried to make sense of it to my kids – to explain the sadness – so that they would understand.

I looked at them: 13 and 16 years old, full of energy and life, questioning how things are, who they are, brimming with excitement for the next challenge. They don’t really know – thank God – what it’s like to have a close family member die.

“It’s very hard,” I told the boys. “Because you don’t feel different when you’re older. Your body may look different, but your mind and your soul are the same. You don’t change that much by getting older, except on the outside. Your feelings don’t change.”

They looked at me blankly. Shane looked at Dylan, to see what he might do. Then I remembered: Shane idolizes his older brother. Every breath that Dylan takes has meaning for Shane.

Like many younger brothers, my dad idolized his older brother, too. In fact, he still does – and why not? His brother was an awesome man.

For years and years and years – for his whole life – my dad has turned to his brother for advice, ideas and conversation. And now, that decades-long conversation is over.

There is no replacement for that.

But how do you explain that to someone who hasn’t lived long enough to appreciate it?

“Shane,” I said. “It would be like if Dylan died.”

I saw a flicker of understanding on Shane’s face – and another flicker on Dylan’s – like they’d been smacked hard, but very briefly, in the face.

“Oh,” Shane said. Dylan looked down at his phone.

They didn’t say much about it after that.

And I didn’t have much more to say.

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