My Uncle Refaat was a physican in Egypt. The last of his siblings to remain in the country of their birth, he visited us in the US every few years.
During my two trips to Egypt, he was our host, spending each day with us as we visited ancient sites and spent time with family and friends.
I was nine years old during our first trip. Bewildered by the country (which I came to love) and stressed by family dynamics, I developed abdominal discomfort.
I was told to lie down so that Uncle Refaat could take a look. I’ll never forget the way he gently asked, “May I examine you?” I felt safe in his hands.
My uncle was compassionate, respectful. His patients adored him.
Twelve years ago, we learned that he was hospitalized due to blood clots. Information was hard to get.
My Uncle Refaat died a few days later, alone in Egypt.
Why hadn’t I called him? I remember berating myself, no place to go to resolve my feelings of sadness and guilt. It was too late.
I turned to the small collages I’d been making for years. Created intuitively, each carried messages of wisdom and insight.
That day, the collages gave voice to what my mind could not express.
I began to revisit them each night before bed, repeating the words I needed to say to carry me through my grief, and release my uncle into his wholeness.
I continued this practice until it felt complete inside me. Until I felt I was ready to say goodbye to saying goodbye.
We are entering into the season that so many cultures experience as a thinning between this world and the one behind the veil.
Each year around this time, I pull out my collages and remember my uncle. I miss him. Sadness still rises.
But as I repeat the words that laid my stormy grief to rest, I feel connection rise as well.
If you are carrying loss (of any kind) and have not yet found tranquility, I want to invite you to participate in the same collage practice that helped me transition from chaotic loss to peaceful remembrance.