A tribute to my amazing Great Uncle Bob (7/3/2001)
Today my Uncle Bob died. Uncle Bob was actually my great uncle – my grandmother’s sister’s husband. He was, simply, a radiant person. I don’t mean physically, although he was handsome. I’m talking about his spirit. Through literally dozens of health problems – heart problems, falls, you name it – he never lost his senses of joy, wonderment, fun, and humor.
For the last several years, Uncle Bob was in and out of hospitals and nursing care facilities. Unfortunately, I live in California and he lived in Michigan; I didn’t see him as often as I would have liked. The few times over the past few years that I did see him, his health was failing. But, without fail, he met each day – and each person in his life – with a strength of spirit that awes me. I endeavor to live my life in his image. Always a smile. Always a laugh. Always a kind word. Always a gentleman. Always deflecting attention away from himself and his poor health. For his visitor’s sake, I am certain.
One of my fondest memories of Uncle Bob was the first time he met my wife, Lisa. Lisa, who is Eurasian, married into my white, Jewish family. At one point in our relationship, I brought her back to Michigan with me to visit my mother and extended family. My family is large, opinionated, and vocal. They can be pretty intimidating. When we visited, my wife was especially sensitive about her Chinese heritage on top of her not being Jewish.
When Uncle Bob first saw her, he immediately came over and exclaimed, “You’re even prettier than Connie Chung!” G-d love my Uncle Bob – he meant it as a compliment, but had mistakenly drawn attention to Lisa’s Chinese heritage. There must have been something in the way that he said it – cheerfully, complimentarily, gentle – that my wife and I didn’t take offense. Quite the opposite – from that moment on, my wife had a special bond with Uncle Bob. Of all my family, she always went out of her way to see him, speak with him, call him or visit him. Although I never asked him directly, I am certain that he, too, felt the special bond with Lisa.
Uncle Bob’s funeral is tomorrow. We’re going to fly in for it. For me, it’s about the love and respect I feel for him, even though I don’t believe he’ll know or feel it. That’s okay – I will.
We’ll miss you, Uncle Bob. I’m hoping to dig up some old photographs while back home. I’d like to see your smiling face each day, to remember you and to inspire me. G-d rest, Uncle Bob.