Our streetlights have dimmed a little tonight as we learned about a death in our family. My husband’s great-uncle passed away this morning and we all feel the heaviness that comes with mourning. It’s such a heavy blanket to pull over ourselves, an unwelcome one, and yet we do because the heaviness is a certain one. A known one. And something known is comforting at times like these.
Uncle J is our Grandma B’s big brother. He is a good man. I recognize I use the present tense, and I do so on purpose simply because he still is all these things. Death has not changed his goodness. His kindness. His integrity or good cheer. I love Uncle J because he welcomed me into this family without question, much like Grandma B. He loves all of us without question.
He especially has an affinity for our children, whom he has never met. He and my son are pen pals. They would write and exchange stories about their lives. My son would tell him about school and Boy Scouts. He drew Uncle J a picture of his tree house. He shared with Uncle J copies of essays he wrote in school. Uncle J would tell my son stories about his Poppy and Grandma B. Even things he knew about my husband. Uncle J, even though he is in his 90s, just knows the perfect gift to send to an 11 year old. Little boxes would show up on our doorstep and some sort of fantastic thing would be inside. The last gift? An R2D2 alarm clock. When you push a button the time shines on the wall.
Uncle J is well known in his town. He is highly published in the local newspaper. You’ll find him almost weekly in the Letters to the Editor section. He is not one to shrink away from his opinion and will sit at his typewriter to express himself in some missive or other. I am sure the Editorial section will be dull from now on.
Uncle J loves Volvos. It’s the only car he has ever driven.
Uncle J was a veteran of the United States military and he was a proud contributor to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Uncle J’s mission in World War II was to work with our allied Soviets from the east and march westward, liberating concentration camps. Of course, they didn’t know that was what they would be doing at the time. They thought they were securing former German-occupied territories. Yet, there responsibilities changed when they became the first to discover these horrific sites. From that moment on, Uncle J spoke against atrocities around the world and at home. There are specific things about what he saw he wouldn’t talk about, but the few things he did speak out on, he did so strongly.
Uncle J was proud of his downstairs bathroom, even though it drove his sisters nuts: cheetah print. He loved that. Maybe because it did drive his sisters nuts. He has such a delightful sense of humor.
Soon after my husband and I were married, we went back to California to visit Grandma B in order to spend time with her, her sister Aunt M, and Uncle J. We spent a whole weekend with them, and to honor our time with them we bought them all copies of the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Only Grandma B and Uncle J continued on with the series, and Uncle J blamed us for his “Harry Addiction”.
My dear, sweet and wonderful Uncle J. You are missed already. You are the balloon that greets the sky at sunrise and travels over the mountains, not because it has no other place to go, but because you are so daring as to see what is on the other side. Thank you for being so tender and wonderful to my son and loving us all.