Friday, January 24, 2014

A Farewell

In my last memory of him, he is walking down the center aisle at my brother's graduation, straight to the stage.  At over six feet, nobody's going to ask him to step aside.  And if they did, he would just say, "I'm getting a picture of my nephew, and until then, I'm not going anywhere."

*  *  * 

When someone you love dies, you go grasping for memories like a desperate fisherman.  Pulling them up from the deep, examining them over and over until they lie still in your mind, lining them up as treasures to be kept and taken in hand when needed again - these are the consolations of the bereaved soul.

And then, there is the anguish of memories not yet made.  I didn't get to say goodbye.  He didn't get to meet my daughter.  I wish I had been there to say 'I love you.'  


*  *  *  

In nearly each memory I pluck from the sea, Uncle Dave's eyes are twinkling. He is dissecting religion and music with my Dad.  He is drinking coffee - unflavored of course, the way real men take it - at the kitchen island with Mom.  He is giving Peter a terrible time about the Royals.  I see his laughing eyes, and I see his bearded chin grin.  He moves his toothpick from side to side of his mouth, and he speaks in jokes.  They are his native language.  

*  *  *

In India, I am a lost 23 year old.  Scared and anxious, sad and burdened.  Three weeks left until AirIndia takes me home, and I don't know if I can make it.  In an internet cafe noisy and crowded, I print an email, and I carry it in my fading black purse.  "Dear Lara, Much of what you have for prayer requests is what I've already been praying for you.  No prophet here, just blessed that the Spirit has led me in my prayers for you..." A beam goes up under my sagging heart. Uncle Dave is praying, and the prayers of a righteous man avail much.  

*  *  * 

He sent books sometimes, just because.  A book of essays by Andree Seu that I have read and re-read, marked and quoted.  Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson.  At dinner, I scoop pasta onto red and yellow Fiestaware, every piece of 12 place settings a wedding gift from him and my aunt.  To load the dishwasher is to smile and think of them, my kitchen cabinets a museum of their incredible generosity.  

*  *  * 

The call comes at Dad's birthday dinner.  When the phone rings, Mom says, "It's your mother, calling to wish you a happy birthday," but I know in my heart it is not.  Dad's face is grave, and my mother begins to cry.  I am crying, tears hot and stinging.  At the end of the night, when Anna is tucked in her carseat, and we are getting ready to leave, Mom looks at Dad and says, "I'm sorry this had to happen on your birthday."  I think then, that this heavy, sad thing is also a very beautiful thing.  On Dad's birthday, Uncle Dave has celebrated his truest birthday of all  - a birth into the Glory that this life is only a poor shadow of.  

Happy Birthday, my dear Uncle.  Oh how we will miss you, but you are home and you are free.  


2 comments:

  1. This is beautiful, Lara. Thank you. My biggest regret is that we were never able to give him a grandchild - but I'm comforted to know that he has 2 grandchildren with him even now! Thanks for sharing your memories!

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  2. Oh Melissa, yes! That brings tears to my eyes to think of Uncle Dave loving on your precious babies. We love you guys and are still thinking of you/praying for you in these days.

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