Wednesday, February 24, 2010


I was making a frittata this morning and my mind went back to the day I learned to make it. There's a back story to this, so be patient.

One day, my mother got a call from a stranger. He was a friend of my Uncles and said my Uncle was not well and was in the hospital. My mother and Aunt hopped a plane and went to Florida from Ohio. It turned out that he had Aids related Dementia and was slowly dying of it. He had had it a long time, but nobody told us.

Mom and my Aunt tried to find a place for my uncle, but there was no place in Florida that would take him. Back then there was still a lot of prejudice against Aids patients. They finally found a group home in Columbus, which was much closer to our home in Cleveland.

We took turns visiting on weekends, but my Uncle wasn't in the group home long. His condition deteriorated so quickly that soon he was in the hospital. He never really knew what was happening or who we were. Sometimes he would have a glimmer of memory, but it was of the past, not who was in front of him. It was very sad.

Finally we got a call that his suffering would be over soon and we rushed to be by his side. When we arrived there was an older couple in the room with him. Turns out they were very good friends that had a winter home in Florida and a Summer home in Columbus. They left us with the promise of help if we needed it.

That day was very rough. We all took turns saying our goodbyes. My Uncle was dying, his mind was gone. Although he was in his late 50's he had been a dancer and a lifeguard and biked instead of driving everywhere he went. He was so fit, that his body wouldn't give out. It was a sad thing to see. We sat by his side all day and finally late at night, the nurses suggested we go to the hotel and get some rest.

We got a call in the early morning that had had passed peacefully, in the early morning. We went to the hospital to see him. They hadn't closed his eyes and he had that look you see in Renaissance paintings, as though he was looking up to Heaven. In that moment I understood why Heaven was perceived of as it was.

Suddenly the two strangers joined us again. They convinced us to leave and have breakfast with them. We went to their house and they made a delicious frittata, and taught us how. They helped us make arrangements to have the body cremated and when we arrived in Florida they were there to help make arrangements for the services and offered their house for the wake. They even shipped the special family items we wanted of his to us after we returned. They were the sweetest, kindest people and I never saw them or heard from them since.

The kindness of strangers.


TerreMum said...

Love this story! Maybe they were angels! You never know...


Kendra Zvonik said...

Wow! What an amazing story, Cinders!
I am going to think about this all day.
I have heard a Buddhist saying that at one time every person was once your mother. If we look at strangers this way, it makes sense to show each stranger kindness and, once in awhile, to be shown this same kindness in return.
Your gratitude is revealed in this post and reveals your own kindness in the telling.

Andreanna said...

What wonderful people! That is so rare to find people like that now.

Poppys Wicked Garden said...

I never heard this story of Uncle Jack. I remember how I wished I could have been there to say goodbye when I was a little girl, but Now I can understand why I wasn't able to see him before he passed. I do remember the kindness and caring of all of the wonderful people in the community at a time when almost everyone was horribly prejudice about AIDS. It was a sad time, but also life altering experience for me.

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