An invitation to live

Early on Sunday morning, one of my dad’s best friends died.

I’ll call him Uncle Q. My parents’ Chinese friends are all “uncle” and “aunt” to me and my sister.

Uncle Q. and my dad and three other men have been a “gang of five” for 60 years, ever since they first met in college in Taiwan. After he first had several heart attacks about 10 years ago, Uncle Q. suggested that they all go on annual trips together, preferably around the cooler, low-season months of September or October. (The summer months were not an option because everyone was too busy baby-sitting grandchildren.)  

For 2020, they’d been planning a “When We Were Young” spring trip to Taiwan—to revisit all the places they used to go to when they were young. The pandemic canceled their plans, of course, so instead they’ve been having weekly Zoom calls. My mom would sometimes share funny reports of their calls. Some of the gang have become hard of hearing, so there would be much excited shouting across screens. Uncle Q. would sometimes fall asleep in the middle of the hubbub.

On their last call together as five, a few days before he died, Uncle Q. knew he was dying. One of the gang, Uncle F., immediately booked and checked in on a last-minute cross-country ticket to see him the next morning. My parents, too, were ready to drive north a few hours to visit. But Uncle Q. said, no, he didn’t want anyone to come visit him. Yes, he was sure. He was adamant. And so, everyone respected his wishes. Even Uncle F.

I’m not sure why I’m writing about this. The truth is it’s on my mind and it’s breaking my heart a little to think of the “gang of five” who will now always be one short. It’s breaking my heart a lot to think about more empty spaces in the future.

It’s as good a moment as any (now is the best moment) to consider what truly matters.

That is all.

It feels like everything.

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