Sometimes life isn't all about workers' compensation. Sometimes it's about family.
I have several wonderful Uncles, but truth be told, I had a favorite. It was my Uncle Dave. He was a stand up guy. A terrific father and husband. A truly gentle soul, and an extraordinarily funny man. Funny to beat the band.
David and his family were the ones we vacationed with on Manitoulin Island in Canada every summer during my childhood years. He was the first one of my father's family to bring his wife west to Colorado for a visit, and was the first person to take me to the Grand Canyon.
Throughout his entire life he was a fun and upbeat person.
David suffered a stroke in his late seventies, about a decade ago. It left him partially paralyzed on the right side. His wife, my Aunt Joy, has been partially paralyzed on the left side for years from a childhood bout with Polio. David told me how people always commented on how nice it was to see an elderly couple holding hands as they walked. What he never told them however, is that they were just trying to walk in a straight line.
Each, he maintained, without the other, would simply walk in circles.
Two years ago I wrote an article entitled “On Death and Flying”. In it I made the following reference to Uncle Dave and his sense of humor:
Regular readers know that I have a rather unique sense of humor. You would probably not be surprised that it can wend its way into the most morbid of tales. Back in the 90’s there was a terrible plane crash in Pittsburgh. A US Air Boeing 737 was on final approach for landing when, at about 6,000 feet, it unexpectedly “barrel rolled” and dove headlong into the ground, obliterating the craft and all on board. My wife and I were discussing this, and she made the comment of how frightening it must have been for the pilots of that plane. I agreed, but assured her that sentiments probably were very similar throughout the entire aircraft. She said, “Yes, but the pilots are sitting up front, looking out through the windshield, and can see exactly where they are headed”. To that I added, “True. Plus they know that in about 5 seconds 150 people will be coming through that little door!”
When we relayed that story to my uncle, who has a similar humor to mine, he quickly added, “And they’re bringing their own chairs!”
I am counting heavily on the hopes that God has a sense of humor. I am probably going to burn in hell otherwise. At least I'll have my uncle to keep me company.
Aunt Joy was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s earlier this summer, so they made the decision to sell their home of more than 55 years, a little bungalow in the Agincourt area of Toronto, Ontario, and move to an assisted living apartment. As part of the health screening required to move into the facility, David was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. This was less than 12 weeks ago.
He passed away earlier this week.
Two years ago, as my own mother languished in a nursing home in the final stages of Alzheimer’s, I convinced my 92 year old father that he needed a short break, and to let me take him to Canada to visit Dave, Joy and their family. I am so glad today that I did that. We had a great time just sitting, talking, reminiscing and laughing (it was hard to be in a room with Dave and not laugh). This weekend I will be again flying to Toronto to meet my now 94 year old father, who is coming from New Mexico to pay final respects to his younger brother. While it will be a solemn occasion, there will be talking, reminiscing and much laughter, as David’s humor lives on through his children; my cousins David, Marilyn and Glen (Especially Marilyn. The woman is an absolute scream).
I am hard pressed to think of another couple who were more in love throughout the totality of their lives than Dave and Joy. They were true soul mates. His humorous comment about each, without the other, simply walking in circles is today truly a concern for those caring for my Aunt. We can take some comfort that she is surrounded by loving family, but our sorrow is as much or more for her loss than our own.
So we say farewell to my uncle, David Wilson. I believe God does indeed have a sense of humor, and despite my earlier expressed concerns I am not too worried about where he has gone to rest. However, Uncle Dave, wherever you are, save me a seat. I want to be there someday, too.