Say Uncle

If you’re reading this first thing in the morning, I suggest you save it for later, because a massive dollop of mobidity is about to come you way. I hope you forgive me!

Today, I’ll be making my way via a long car journey to visit my extended family because a few days ago, my uncle suddenly passed away.

My family literally came from nothing. I think they practically invented the phrase “with just the clothes on their backs”. All their lives they have worked in order to aquire material possessions because that was the only way they knew how to get a better life. My Dad spent years trading hours for minimum wage at a clothing factory until it got shut down. Without a job left to feed his family, he used his savings to take a risk and it paid off. Now my Dad is an entrepreneur who doesn’t have to swap his time away for cash.

Because of their background, it’s very difficult for my family to understand minimalism. I choose minimalism because I want to be able to afford experiences, like being able to see the world instead of being stationary and building a houseful of junk. Sometimes, I talk about the pursuit of minimalism as if it is the same as the pursuit of happiness. I have believed this to be true for a long time, but is it true for everyone? What difference does it make if you die happy vs if you die alone, aren’t you still dead?

The only answer that I can come up with is that death can’t be helped, but how you get there is up to you. At times, life may seem futile, but if you can’t control how and when you are going to die, you might as well control how you are going to live.

My uncle has reminded me that life is so so fragile, and death can be really unexpected. Being relatively young has little to do with when death will come a-knockin’. It’s like betting on red on roulette when it’s been black five times in a row. The ball doesn’t care which colour it’s been on before, just like it doesn’t make a difference to Death if you’re young, old, healthy, wealthy or wise.

I think what I’m trying to say is that my uncle, my Dad and the rest of my family have worked all their lives for more and more money, and yet of course, they’re not immune to death. But in doing so, I think to some extent they’ve sacrificed a little bit of happiness along the way.

My uncle will be leaving behind a business, a house, a car, his wardrobe, a shed full of tools, as well as his family. Now all of the stuff he left behind will be a massive burden on his family, since they don’t want to get rid of it, but it hurts too much to keep.

But of course, you don’t really know until you get there. My uncle could have felt very proud during his last moments to have left behind a house and enough money for his wife and kids. I don’t think he would have believed minimalism would make him happy, and in this case, I sure hope he didn’t.