Saturday, January 28, 2006
2006 has not started off on a promising note for me or my family. On Wednesday, January 11, my Uncle Dale (my father’s brother) passed away. He was another victim of the scourge of cancer. It’s been really hard on me.
Uncle Dale reminded me of my Dad more than any of his other siblings. It always seemed to me that they shared the same sense of humor and general outlook on life, which I feel I inherited. He was a matter-of-fact and blunt man, as I believe I am as well. If something ticked him off, he would tell you no matter if it may hurt your feelings or not. He didn’t sugarcoat the truth, or at least his perception of it. That’s me in a nutshell. As a result of that I always felt a sense of kinship with Dale outside of the fact that he was my Uncle. He was cool and laid back. He was all the things I aspire to be.
He even did something really cool for his funeral. He wrote a 3 (or was it 4) page letter to be read by the pastor that addressed his family and many friends. His words were poignant, touching, funny, and brilliant. It just gave me a sense that even though the body may die, for whatever reason that our bodies may die, the man that is Dale continues. It may have been a different voice reading his words, but they were his words. I could almost hear him whispering them to me in my ear. He had a little something to say to everyone, and, honestly, it was the most uplifting funeral I’ve ever been to. Yet because of that, it was also the most depressing. (Outside of my Dad’s funeral, of course, but that’s a given.) I hope that makes sense to you.
My heart goes out to my Cousin Rhonda, Dale’s wife Dora, and all the family and friends whose lives and hearts were touched by Uncle Dale. Fear not, my friends, we will se him again.
If, in the end, my nephews James and Austin look up to and respect me as much as I did Uncle Dale, then I will be one lucky guy indeed. Our family lost another great man. Another great light in the world has gone out. But I take comfort in the knowledge that he, along with the others who have moved on, are there waiting for us in glory. I will miss you, Uncle Dale….
…Until we meet again, some other day….
Then the Saturday of Dale’s funeral, that night after it was all over and we were preparing ourselves to move forward with our lives, we received another punch to the gut. My Uncle Jim (my mother’s sister’s [Mitzi] husband) had a heart attack. He was in the hospital, on a ventilator, but it did not look good for him. He fought the good fight, but unfortunately Jim passed away earlier this week as well.
Mitzi and Jim got married when I was much younger than I am now, but I remember always thinking Jim was one of the coolest adults I’d ever met. This was mainly due to his affinity for Computers and Football. He was a big fan of both, which made him awesome to me.
He always encouraged me to learn about computers, programming, and all the things that continue to fascinate me now. I remember he once gave a print out of code written in…I can’t remember…I think it was Pascal or Cobol…and he told me there were some syntax errors in it. He asked me to find them. At that point in my life, I had never messed with anything other than BASIC on my Commodore 64. It was fun to try and find the error(s), but when I couldn’t he pointed them out to me and explained *why* they were errors. This exercise was repeated several times when ever we would visit them in North Carolina. It may seem like a small gesture to you, but to me it was huge. It’s just another instance in my life where analytical thinking was encouraged, and it’s helped me every time I’ve ever tried to code anything since.
(And that, to me, should be a valuable lesson to anyone out there who interacts with kids, whether their own children, family members, or just kids who look up to them. It’s important to not underestimate the effect you can have on them. The smallest gesture on your part could mean the world to any given child. It is more important than anything, in my opinion, to speak to kids like you would speak to any one else. Don’t dumb yourself down because you think you need to in order for a kid to understand you. If they ask you what something means, tell them. Then they’ll hopefully learn something new. Kids deserve the best that any of us can offer, so don’t ever be afraid to give them just that.)
Anyway…Jim was a good man. I know he was a good husband to my Aunt Mitzi, and for that I am grateful. My heart goes out to her, and Jim’s son Michael, who was always a great friend to me and my brother, and all of Jim’s friends and family as well. I know that we will, too, see Jim again when it is our time to move on from this place. He made this world a better place, and he will do so again in the next.
Until we meet again, Jim, take care…and Hail to the Redskins.
So, in any event, I have been reflecting a lot lately on family tragedies. Sometimes the grief and the sense of loss are overwhelming. We should remember, however, that while we have lost two great men this month, it is not the end for them. They are with us. They will always be with us. This life here is just the beginning. We are all still in the baby steps of our existence. There is still much to do…much to see…much to learn… and Dale and Jim are on the next leg of their journey.
Therefore, we grieve because we must, and because we should, but we should also keep in mind that this is not goodbye. I will miss them both dearly. However, when I have fulfilled my purpose here, I look forward to picking the brains of, and modeling myself after, these men yet again. When we meet again — some other day.
On another family note, my Aunt Caroline was talking to me and Lee Jay at Dale’s funeral, and she mentioned something I think all of us in the family should consider. She said she regrets that she never gets to see so many of us unless some family tragedy strikes. We agreed that it shouldn’t be that way, and that perhaps we should make an effort to have a family reunion at some point soon. I think we all should talk about that, and start making plans. You never know when you’re last day is upon you, so we should take every chance we have to spend time with one another. I, for one, think it would be great to get us all together to celebrate rather than to mourn.
Well, that’s all I have for you for now. Take care….