How was your holiday season? Filled with presents and family? Really? Yeah, I hate you.  My holiday was overshadowed by death.  The ultimate party pooper. I’ve avoided writing this post because I know, in the end, I will be an emotional wreck and wishing you all could just read my mind (which would make blogging so much easier).

My Uncle Marty died.

He wasn’t really my uncle, but since I wouldn’t know my actual uncle if he came up to me on the street and offered me free chocolate or a cruise to the Caribbean, Marty was it. My mother and Marty had grown up together – gone to the same high school.  He married my mother’s best friend; Sandy.   My Uncle Marty and Aunt Sandy had two children, Sue and Rich. Rich was my age and I can’t really remember a time in my life when Marty, Sandy, Rich and Sue weren’t a part of it.  They have always been my only relations on my mother’s side.

Aunt Sandy & Uncle Marty

Marty was a man who was larger than life.  People say that, I know, it’s cliche. However, in Marty’s case it was true.  He was loud and passionate and angry.  He didn’t just say “hi” in a calm, gentle fashion, but would grab you, hug you, kiss you and embrace you with the feeling that this was the first and last time he would ever see you.  He gave generously and hurt deeply.  He would tease you, chide you and poke at you, but always with a smile and a twinkle that told you that he loved you.

Marty was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer about a year ago.  It sucked. He’s gone now, and it isn’t fair.

But life isn’t fair and this was made abundantly clear to David and I when on Christmas Eve we received the news that our dear friend, Keye Ratley, was shot and killed.  He was 35.

Keye, his girlfriend, his brother and his girlfriend, were all leaving a night club together, when Keye’s baby brother got jumped by two muggers.  Keye ran in to pull the men off of his  brother when the muggers turned around and shot Keye in the abdomen.

Keye Ratley

Keye had a quiet confidence about himself.  A gentle demeanor that belied his wicked sense of humor and creative spirit.  He was a friend to all and an enemy to none.  He was a slave to technology with an absolute obsession with FourSquare and Facebook that left every person feeling like they were a part of his life. He was also a man who knew how to wear a handlebar mustache. David spent three years sitting right next to Keye at work, eating lunch together, talking about the latest Apple products.  Only hours before Keye’s death David and he had been exchanging text messages about a new iPhone app.

We buried Keye on Tuesday – his family, friends, coworkers.  David and I have cried a thousand tears and I know we have thousands more still yet to come. It sucks.

I don’t have words of wisdom. I haven’t learned some great lesson from all of this. People close to me have died. They are gone and that is that.

3 thoughts on “Suckerpunch”

  1. Beth,
    Thank you for the wonderful words about my dad.Though we are not that close, you and your family have always been “Family” to me too. I was trying to remember the last time we saw each other. I can’t remember, and it doesn’t matter. You’re still family.

    I wanted to reply because of the anger emitting from you. You’re right, its not fair, but it is life. Gotta take the good with the bad.I tell people all the time ” If everything always went the way you wanted it, life would be so boring, we wouldn’t want to live it.”

    Though my father struggled and was in pain for the last year the time was amazing. As if we could’ve gotten closer then we already were. But we did. The year turned into more than a college education. Every day after work I went straight to his house and told him about the day at work. He was still totally interested in the business and would ask where I was every night that I showed up late. After my daily recap and his advice that followed, he turned to my education. Everyday he watched the news, watched the stock reports, read the news paper and prepared for our nightly discussion. The education he gave me in the last year will undoubtedly be the most valuable and pertinent studies of my life. The time was priceless and he left me with a feeling of power and confidence. I don’t worry about running the business or the family because he prepared me so thoroughly.

    As rough and blunt as my dad was, he was equally loving and giving. We will all miss him but he lived a great life and completed his bucket list, which helps us get over the grief of his young departure.

    Don’t be angry! Cherish the memories, and know that he is no longer suffering. The man upstairs has a lot of work to do, to fix this fucked up world. He obviously needed Marty’s help.

    I just wanted you too know that I believe being angry will be our demise. Just remember Marty’s teachings when you make decisions for your everyday life. If everyone did, the world would be a better place.
    Love You,

  2. I’m so glad you and your dad got to spend time together – meaningful time together before he left. I’m not angry, oh, I suppose a little. It is always hard to accept when the people we love and that are good seemed to be prematurely taken. My family and I had the fortune (or perhaps misfortune) of not living through your Dad’s illness on a day-to-day basis. It felt too much like one day we saw him, the next he was sick and the day after he was gone. It felt as if it all happened too quickly.

    One of my favorite stories about your Dad was my wedding day. I was so thrilled that your parents made the trip to see me get married and it meant the world to me that they were there. As the reception started to wind down Uncle Marty walked up to David, put his arm around his shoulder, shook David’s hand with a cash gift tucked inside. Poor David – a southern boy from a small Texas town didn’t quite know what to say or make of Marty but he instantly liked him. That was your dad, generous in all things.

    I have so much love for your family – even though we have seen little of each other over the years I feel closer to you all than I do to some of my actual family.

  3. Dear Sandy, Rich, and Susan:

    You most likely will not remember me, but I had to write and convey that my thoughts are with you all. I worked at Products Engineering when I was 16 and going to school. It was my first real job, and I loved it. I remember your Dad, and much laughter during my younger years. It was a good experience. For some reason, I found myself looking up your Dad, and was surprised and saddened to read of his passing. My Mom drove me to work before I got my license, but I will forever remember the few years working around your Dad. I also remember Susan and Rich being very young, and graduating from high school in 1976. I worked for your Dad until I was about 19, and could not keep my grades up. I also spent many years living in Westchester.


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