It is an old shoe box, one that I chose to hold my precious correspondence when I was still living at home. It didn't hold everything, of course, for an old shoe box could only hold so much. But this one sufficed. It would do. And it contained letters and postcards from a few pen-pals, old friends, relatives, including long letters from my Uncle when he lived overseas.

And because I moved to the other side of the globe, that old shoe box moved too. It had to for I had to have those letters with me. Perhaps there were others in my past who thought that I wasn't very sentimental. How wrong they were. I was very sentimenal about my belongings, things given to me over the years by friends, even little trinkets that I stored away in my hope chest. Nothing of monetary value, just mere sentimental value. That's all.

The shoe box holds many memories especially those letters written to me by my Uncle. I had always treasured them but since his untimely death almost a year ago, they are even more precious to me now. And it feels somewhat odd to unfold one of his letters and re-read it, knowing that the man who wrote those words is also a memory now, no more flesh and blood, no more the Uncle that I can write to or speak with if I should see him again. And I will never see him again.

It hurts still.

And if I choose to dwell on it, to allow the regrets to well up again, there will be that hollow feeling inside, a hole, an empty space. Who knew, Father? Who knew it would be like this? You knew. And dwelling on one's pain and regrets sounds like an absolutely foolhardy thing to do. But we still do it because we don't learn, do we. It comes and goes. It doesn't stay for very long, thank goodness. In this life, it would be nice if one didn't have any regrets. But that is not the case for many of us, unfortunately. It would be nice but not very realistic, I suppose, especially for someone like me who is keen to harp on the past, who is unable to be detached, and who is too emotional for her own good.

Am I still grieving? It certainly feels like it. What is this thing called grief? I've read its definition and I know we all go through it at one time or another in our lives. We all know that life goes on. We all know that we pick ourselves up again and carry on. I was there for my maternal grandmother's funeral and a few years later, I was also able to attend my Godmother's funeral. At least I had that. And I actually felt most fortunate indeed as I could still say good-bye, in a way. But not for my favourite uncle in the whole wide world? Why not? I never knew that I could be affected like this at this stage of my life. Of course I never knew. For I never knew he would be gone so soon. And I never knew that I would be too late to see him although maybe I did have an inkling of sorts before I left for the airport. He did die. And I was too late. Something I have to live with. And I am living with it.

I still grieve for my father, I know that I do. And now I grieve for my Uncle. They were two very important men in my life. My brothers are important too. What then, Father? And I am scared.

It is now exactly one year since Uncle L.'s death. This page started some time ago but didn't seem eager to finish or even get done. But maybe it is appropriate, timely -- whatever you want to call it -- that it gets finished on the first anniversary of his death.

The old shoe box holds many memories. From an imperfect niece to her imperfect uncle, I will never forget you and I still miss you. Life isn't always fair and there are many hardships along the way. You endured much since your birth. I understood all that, didn't you know that? You and I were so different, yet also alike. Creativity played a big part in your life and mine. I am so glad you were a part of our family, that we lived under the same roof for a while. There is so much to say and yet, what would be the purpose of it all? A way of remembering you, if nothing else. Each individual will have their own memories of you, I'm sure. I have mine. Away from us, those who had grown up with you, you had another life. Married three times; your only daughter is now an adult. You seemed restless to me. What were you searching for? Never one to stay still, to remain stagnant. You were always moving about, keeping busy, studying. And even though you ventured far, far away, I will always remember you as the Uncle who was ten years older and who always remembered my birthday. The only year you forgot -- or that it didn't happen -- was the year you died for, unbeknownst to us, you were already sick at the time. You were already dying, weren't you?

Once again, I quote from D.H. Lawrence's poem, Piano:

The glamour of childish days is upon me,
my manhood is cast
Down in the flood of remembrance,
I weep like a child for the past.

And there are still days when I do. Sad, but true. Ah, well. As I am so fond of saying these days, life goes on. During my younger days, when you had relocated to another country, I would sometimes listen to a music cassette by Cat Stevens and think of you, especially his song, Wild World, which became a favourite for a while. There is something about me that holds a special place for the men that I grew up with. That was how life unfolded for me. So much has been left unsaid. And maybe I will save all that for another day.

I only knew you as my Uncle, my advocate. You occupied a part of my world for a little while and later only made brief visits. I treasured all of it.

I will never forget you.

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