Today, I was greeted with the news that school is delayed until noon, due to snow in Norfolk. My excitement about a leisurely morning was dashed by news of my Great Uncle David’s death. I’m again reminded how unprepared any of us are for losing a loved one. Although Uncle David’s health was failing for years, he always seemed to bounce back. But, now, he’s gone.
Like many military children, I grew up around the world and was not always connected to my extended family. My Dad’s father passed away when I was about eight. I’ve heard stories of his great character and draw pride from how he was a highly respected member of the community and a great provider for his family.
On my Mom’s side, Uncle David was like a grandfather to me.
Uncle David was a veteran. In his day, in southwest Georgia, the good jobs were either working on the railroad or going into the military. He was Army Strong! decades before I was born.
Uncle David’s eyesight was failing as I finished up college and began my career. Despite this, every time I visited him, I’m certain he could see me. He could visualize the places I served…Germany, Fort Hood, Fort Bliss…many places he’d served in the ’50s. Understandably, he was excited about the election of Barack Obama. Though blind, he would “watch” the news daily. After the 2009 Inauguration, I visited Georgia and told Uncle David about my experiences at the White House. He was proud. Not a chest-thumping kind of proud, no, he was more sober-spirited and measured in his enthusiasm.
For the past decade, I’ve only seen Uncle David in his home or the hospital. But, that was just fine. His presence set the scene.
Other than my immediate family, Uncle David was my biggest champion and supporter. I drew inspiration from his legacy, but I feel he drew some inspiration for living from the stories of my life.
If I’ve ever learned how to treat older people, it’s because of the example my Parents set by how they treat Uncle David. If I know how to be treated by an older person, it’s because of how Uncle David treated me.
Society doesn’t build monuments for ordinary men like Uncle David, but the esteem and pride he built in me is monumental.
I will miss you, Sir. And I hope to live a personal and professional life that continues to make you proud. And, as you would say about driving and life, I’ll be sure to “keep it between the ditches.”
In life, we only have a few people who are permanently fixed in our corner. Take care of them. Tell them you love them. Visit when you can. Make them proud.