We got the news today, o-boy, that my wife's uncle Phil passed away a little while ago. It wasn't unexpected at all as his health has been deteriorating slowly but surely, and in some ways is a relief as he has been living in a facility for some time now. Living in that facility for different reasons though, and living a very distant relationship from his family since the day approx. 12 years ago when he tried to burn down my in-laws home in a suicide/homicide attempt to end his life and his brother's (my father-in-law) life at the same time.
When my wife and I were first dating, and for the first 10 years or so of our time together there are relatively happy memories of her uncle's involvement in the family. He was fairly happy, or at least seemed to be happy, and he was a regular fixture at family events including weekend dinners, visits to the movies, and visits to his flat in D.C. He would spin tales of places he'd been, people he'd known and dealt with in his adventures, and a genial smile that left everyone unaware of his internal demons and depression, and apparent jealousy of his brother and his domination of everyone's lives.
My father-in-law has been slowed considerably too, but he and his wife both have some isses with paranoia and schizophrenia. Both are people that would be considered by many to be clinically depressed, her with a definite diagnosis of manic depression, him with a fear of ever seeing a doctor about the issue himself because it's highly likely he would be medicated and treated himself. Father-in-law has been slowed due to frail old bones and a tendency lately to fall and bang himself up in one way or another. He recently had broken his arm and has fallen in the past and incurred bleeding on the brain that led to some time in the hospital to have surgery and recover from same. That surgery and the bleeding on the brain led to a few minor strokes that have weakened my father-in-law and left him pretty much a shut-in in his own home. He has gone from someone that was always busy, working like a dog in his civil service position (before he retired) to enjoying just a few years of retirement before these health issues kicked up, to being someone that now finds himself dependent upon others to shop for him and help take him to doctor's appointments, and the like.
His brother (my wife's uncle) wound up going into 'the facility' (a combo old persons home, assisted living facility, mental facility with a secured area for some patients, including my wife's uncle) back in the later half of the 1990s and he's been there ever since. He had to appear in court on the charges related to the attempted arson of my father-in-law's home and the judge in that case basically agreed to let him stay in the facility knowing that he was never going to be released back into the public world.
We (my wife and I) went to visit her uncle a few times along the way, but not many. When we did visit it was clear that her uncle really didn't know what was going on in the real world, and could barely tell who we were, if he could tell at all. My father-in-law visited even more rarely, if at all. After the attempted arson he never wanted to associate with his brother again, and I don't know that I blame him.
It is sad to think that a former Korean War veteran who had worked until retirement age and beyond, had grown up in the depression, and had seen a lot of the growth over this country's rapid-industrial age wound up living a lonely existence, but at the same time, it had been exceedingly clear that there really was no alternative for him once he went into the facility. He wound up having his brother (my father-in-law) handling his financial affairs until his money and possessions were all gone, having all of his assets eaten up to pay for his stay in the facility. My father-in-law used to fret over the amount of money it was costing to keep him in the home (the facility) and how there'd be nothing left after he died. Sure enough, about 2 years back all of his (the uncle's) assets were gone, and he wound up becoming a ward of the state/federal government.
My wife and I had gotten a call the other day telling us (as we were listed as people to contact in case of emergency, along with my in-laws) that her uncle had fallen again and bumped his head. Checking in later, we were told that her uncle was fighting off a case of pneumonia and likely was not going to survive it. Knowing that to be the case, the news we got wasn't a surprise, but it is nonetheless sad as we think of happier times with her uncle.
Hopefully he's passed onto a better place, and at least now my in-laws will no longer have to worry about how he's being treated and what expenses they may be responsible for. I expect there'll be a quiet funeral, if there's a service at all. Most likely he'll be cremated, and he'll complete the ashes-to-ashes, dust-to-dust transition with little or no fan-fare and probably not even a notice in the obituary section of the newspapers in the area.
Goodbye uncle Phil.