Yesterday, September 10th, marked the one year anniversary of my current job’s start date. One year ago, I started a new path in my career that I considered risky on many accords. For starters, it took me away from the only comfort I’ve ever had since I entered my profession: retail pharmacy. Secondly, I entered a realm where I considered myself to be a serious underdog: becoming a managed care clinical pharmacist without having completed a residency…something not unheard of, but a rarity in its own right. And lastly, I made the move back to the Bay Area from Southern California which not only took me away from the single place I knew in my adult life for 10 years, but also put me in a long-distance relationship. And aside from the professional growth that I have achieved at work and the personal growth that my girlfriend and I have sustained, there is one experience in particular that occurred this past year which stands out in my mind: the bonds I have strengthened with my family.
During my time in LA, my photos, posts, and verbal proclamations all indicated that I was 1) extremely close-knit with my Bay Area family and 2) longing for the day when I could live in closer proximity so I could relish in all the opportunities I would be privileged to have with them. With this new job and relocation, the time would finally come. But even I could not predict how significant this experience would be, and nothing would prepare me for the magnitude of emotions I would feel this past year.
Not long after I returned, my uncle from Napa passed away. He had been diagnosed with liver cancer earlier that summer, which was essentially the last time I saw him somewhat healthy. I had been up north for a different job interview, which I was hoping to be the one that would take my career in a new direction. That situation did not work out, and another month or so passed before I relocated to where I am today. Unfortunately, by the time I made it back to visit him again, he was worse, and in the hospital. The time after that, he was in hospice care. And finally, the last time I would see him, was at his funeral.
That entire chain of events was what seemed like an infinite sadness. My uncle impacted so many of us during his life and I could write an entire post about how he helped my family settle in Napa, how he treated all of his nieces and nephews like his own children, and how great of a person he was to each and every person he interacted with. But something else unfolded during this mourning period that I will never forget. Though there may not be a valid reason why my uncle had to leave all of us, there was something so painstakingly beautiful that ensued after the fact.
After paying my final respects, I walked over to hug his children, my cousins, who were observing. One of them said to me, “Look at you, Matthew. You got to see all of this; everything that has happened.” Another said to me, “Before he passed, I told him that you were on your way back. He thought you got that first job, and you were already home. I told him that you would be home soon. You would be home soon.” I took a moment to let that sink in–to better understand what exactly had happened in only the two and a half weeks that I had been back. I had just witnessed so many facets of my uncle’s last days that many members of my family did not encounter. From seeing relatives for the first time in years as I entered that hospital room, or praying over him in his home just hours after his last breath, to enduring the heartache of his casket finally closing. I witnessed all of this, because I made it back home.
Death is something that many usually fear. The emotions it brings are inevitable, so many individuals do whatever it takes to suppress that grief in order to stay strong. Not my family. We connect with death. The more we prayed, the more we mourned, the stronger we became. The timing of my uncle’s death and my return home was no coincidence. It was providence. Although the circumstances for me seeing old faces more frequently were initially unfortunate, it would not continue as so. This past year has given me some of the most memorable experiences with my family, both immediate and extended, that I could ever imagine. What I once considered to be a lost cause during my time in LA, has now become a dependable consistency. I have connected with some of whom I never expected, and become remarkably closer to those who have been there my entire life. I never want it to end.
However, we all know that the future is uncertain. I could spend the rest of my life here, or pick up and go again. My closest friends and family who I hold in high regards can do the same. And unfortunately, this will not be the last death that my family will endure. But wherever I may be, I hope to keep these kinships and continue to nurture them. Regardless of the future, the events that have occurred in this past year will be forever etched in my mind, and I will be forever thankful that I made it back.
And I am now home.