Monday, 23 January 2012

Death: When will it come for me?

My Uncle Vern was mentally challenged.

We didn't call it that in his day. We didn't really call it anything.

Uncle Vern just never grew up. School officials put him through public school until they didn't anymore, and then he went to work for my granddad on our farm in Southern Ontario.

Vern was a great guy and I loved him.

Throughout my childhood, Uncle Vern was my playmate, a little man who pulled me in a red wagon and took me out for Hallowe'en. He always liked to dress like Freddie the Freeloader.

One day, this boy-man of 54 went out to visit a neighbor, to help bring in the crop of apples. I didn't hear the ambulance. I only remember my mother saying that Vern had died from a massive heart attack.

You might say Vern died with his rubber boots on.

I couldn't believe it. I was heartbroken, as any child would be in losing not just an uncle but a playmate.

I remember Vern putting a lot of sugar on his cornflakes but other than that, I think he ate pretty well. Who wouldn't if you lived on a fruit and vegetable farm?

He was also a little overweight.

Oh yes, and he smoked.

Liked to roll his own.

Uncle Vern was the first one in our family to die from heart disease, but he wouldn't be our last.

Heart disease and stroke killed nearly every aunt and uncle I had on my mother's side. No one should have been surprised. They smoked like chimneys and drank like fish.

A lot of great people; not the best role models for a little girl who grew up adoring them.

I was thinking about Vern today when I took my blood pressure, at the advice of my family doctor.

Vern was a year younger than me.

Death got him on a beautiful sunny day, while he was minding his own business, picking a few apples to bring home to the family.

When will it come for me?

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