“Funerals are no fun at all,” said my Aunt Lou today at her husbands funeral. They had 63 years of marriage. 63.. My Uncle Dick was an amazing guy. If you met him briefly you knew that he was blind, loud, and absolutely hilarious. But if you got to know him past that, you would know he is loving, compassionate, and had a way of making people feel unconditionally accepted. No matter who you were, my Uncle Dick could find a connection with you and you’d fall in love with him. He was naughty at times, but the kind of naughty that made you giggle when your mom wasn’t looking and made you go back and tell your friends what you learned.
My favorite thing about Uncle Dick was his mind. At 85 years old he still had a hunger to learn.–learn about what you might ask–EVERYTHING. Every time I saw him there was always a new book or a new concept that he wanted to talk about. Whether it was the new fighter jet in the military or how deep Lake Michigan is, there was always something he was learning about and was ready to share. His beautiful mind also had a great memory. He could tell descriptive stories from his past, the good and the bad, without missing a detail.
Last Christmas he told me about when he first started going to blind school. He told me about the friends he made and who he liked right off the bat and who he didn’t. I almost fell off the couch laughing when he said that a few of his friends and him would sneak out to the bars and get drunk. “I always wonder how that looked: 5 wasted blind guys with sticks trying to find their way back home”. When he said that I imagined it to be pretty funny. The amount of stories he told are forever engraved in my brain.
There’s one thing that everyone knew about me, and it’s that I adored my Uncle Dick. I thought he was wise, brave, strong, and someone I truly looked up to. And those characteristics were what I thought of when I was standing at the funeral and watched the 2 marines fold the American flag in front of his ashes. He was a Marine veteran from the Korean War, so his funeral was a military funeral. The whole thing was beautiful. The gunshots, the rituals, my aunt getting to keep the flag and the marine saluting her. I could barely keep myself together. At the end, when the marine gets on one knee to give my Aunt the flag, he whispered something, and she broke down. And one of her sons let out a heartbreaking sob, and that’s when I lost it. I wasn’t just hurting because I lost my holiday traditions and someone I loved and cared for, but I hurt for the family that lost their husband and dad.
And then I realized, that will be me someday. And my Dad is now the second oldest person left on that side of the family, it scares me. It’s a wake up call to live your life fully, and appreciate the people in your life because you never know when it will be your time.
RIP Uncle Dick. Every time I say the Norwegian prayer , I’m thinking of you and your magic talking clock. I love you, and I hope that up there in heaven God gave you some great vision.