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Monday, August 8, 2011

An Ode to Those Who Have Given Their Lives for Us and Who's Lives We Carry with Us


On this day one year ago my uncle passed away. I vividly remember being in the San Antonio airport, waiting for a flight to Albuquerque, when my father called me and delivered the news. I broke down and couldn’t believe it.

With his passing, my family bloodline shrunk to four: my mother, father, brother and myself. It was a blow to all of us. He had been sick for a long time and had battled numerous ailments in the past decade, but he was just beginning to regain his health when he fell ill for the last time. He had had a very rough 2010 with surgeries, hospital stays, and constant oversight and nursing. Uncle Dave had always had health issues, but the future was starting to look bright. He had recovered from heart surgery and was regaining his strength. Yes, we worried every time he went to the hospital, but rarely was it as serious as the last time. I knew that he was unexpectedly back in the hospital and I wanted to fly to Wisconsin to see him. My father told me no, stay in San Antonio with your friends and that he would keep me updated on any developments. When my father called me and told me that my uncle had died, I didn’t know what to do. My first and strongest reaction was to change flights and get to Wisconsin as soon as possible. Again, my father told me not to. He said that he would take care of everything and that Dave did not want any kind of public funeral service. Still, the urge to travel to Wisconsin was great and hard to ignore.

Today, sitting in Miami, rain pouring down outside, I am filled with thoughts of my uncle. I loved him as much as one could and will always cherish every memory I have of him. As my brother and I have already reminisced today about him, his laughter always brightened a room and he had the presence of someone twice his size. I always looked forward to holidays with him, especially in the past few years as I might only see him once a year. He always traveled to see us and sacrificed so that he could. There is nothing that he wouldn’t do for us and nothing we wouldn’t have done for him.

I am filled with more emotion today than I expected because I would probably not be here in Miami if it were not for my uncle. It is his car that I am using and drove across the country and it is the trust that he left my brother and I that I am using to help pay for my personal expenses in law school. I will never be able to repay him for those gifts and everything he has given for me. It is hard to write this because words cannot describe what it is like to have someone in your life who gave everything so you could have everything. The selflessness and generosity my uncle always showed my brother and I are values that I want to live by and promote in my kids (when I have them).

I decided to write this post not because of the anniversary of my uncle’s passing, but in memory of him and everything he gave my family. I will not dive into the cliché of holding your family close and their importance. However, I do think it is important to understand those that have provided the lives we live and that we carry their memory with us where ever we go. I am not an overly sentimental or emotional person, but just thinking about my uncle, something I do every day, can and does bring tears to my eyes. As I wrote above, carrying on his life and his meaning in my life is a goal and life purpose for me. Without a doubt that will be difficult and require a commitment, but it pales in comparison with the commitment that he made to my brother and I and how much he has given us. I do not know where my life will take me; but what I do know is that where ever it does, my family will be with me every step of the way and I will carry their memory and everything they have taught me with me.

I have lost relatives before, but as I have gotten older it has gotten harder and I believe that is because my connection with them strengthens over time. Death is a fact of life, but it shouldn’t be the end of someone’s existence. Their memory and impact should continue in the lives of everyone they positively impacted. You don’t have to take time out of your day and talk your loved ones or make a grand gesture to them, just reflect on what they have meant to you and how they have affected your life. My brother, father, and I reflect on my uncle Dave every day and it helps us keep his life and memory alive and further his impact on this Earth. 

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