The Death of An Uncle

Wild Flowers by Balwant Bhagwandin

The Wormhole of Change

This week, I've found myself bursting into tears and crying a lot prompted by death in my life.

Death marked by the shedding of an identity to which I've clung my whole life- that of the singer (of other people's material) but also the death of a family member.

His Life

My uncle was an intellectual and an educator. He was also a published Guyanese poet ( see link to his work at the bottom of this page).

He spoke few words but wrote many of sweeping landscapes and grand ideas.

It wasn't until the viewing portion of his funeral tonight that I realised that his fingerprint on my life is indelible.

His Books

In Guyana, we kept his book collection in my dad's office in our house. We had 3 walls from floor to ceiling lined with all of his books. From Kafka to Steinbeck to Kerouac to medical journals.

It was then that I fell in love with books and with reading. Most of it was over my head but words were being used as weapons to wound and as music to move and I was awake in a new world.

I memorized words and whatever phrases that sounded cool to me as I climbed the shelves and picked off whatever looked colourful and out there. I felt so slick at 12 for having a new toolkit at my disposal. A vocabulary.

The words that I read in that tight dark dusty library lifted me into another place and I would escape there whenever I could.

I felt like I'd discovered the coolest secrets by having these books at my disposal and they became my treasure. I started sneaking them up to my room 5 at a time and even brought boxes of them to the States with us when we moved in 2001.

My uncle also wrote his name on the inside cover of each of them. That's how I knew they belonged to him once. If these books were amazing that made the guy who owned them pretty amazing too.

He was a very sweet-natured and quiet man but I garnered a newfound respect for him after discovering that the books were really his.

His Influence

I sat inside of the Leo Kearns Funeral Home on Leffert's and Liberty Ave in Queens tonight listening to his peers, students, friends and family members speak of him.

He was an activist, a rebel rouser, a writer, a poet, an educator, a scientist. He published two books in his lifetime. Among other achievements, that's a job well done.

It was through his books at age 12 that I discovered the beauty and the power of words and fostered a love of reading.

And now during the celebration and rememberance of his life, I've come to a level of rejuvenated love of words through the exploration of my Self and my own thoughts and ideas.

All the musings of this week came together for me listening to his poetry being read and thinking, he did his work- he shared his ideas. Now it's time I did the same.