It’s been a emotional ride the past few weeks. I am SO exceptionally grateful that Blake and I have been blessed with the ability to be back home with our families right now. There’s been suffering and death from cancer, blessings and strain of new births on the way, and the continual decline of dad’s health in the mix. Reflection on the past 18 months reveals 5 funerals of close family who’ve passed and I suspect there are a few more on the horizon, coming up fast. In the words of one of the greatest men I’ve been privileged to know, “…everybody faces problems in their life. I don’t think it matters what the problem is but how you meet it that counts.”
My Uncle Bill said those words. And they were more than words, they were a guiding principle in his life. I can’t help but take a moment to pay tribute to this man. A man who linked me to a generation I didn’t have the chance to know personally, a man who did the same for my children – a man who walked a straight path every day of his life. This is on of my favorite pictures of him with my daughter a decade ago:
Bill held his ground and standards in adversity. Even when being held down by army comrades in an effort to force liquor down his throat, he fought for what he believed in. It paid off. People respected him and he influenced many for good. He was a man you could count on, a good neighbor and loyal friend. Last week my mom told me this story. I want it recorded for myself, so I’m putting it here.
“I’d come home from Preston for the weekend. Kayleen was just a little girl and Holly a baby. Bill was driving mom, me and my two girls over to Kay’s in his pickup. As we passed Gale Reed’s place, we observed a situation. The scene was a low spot of ground, below the barn where all the drainage went. It was a fair sized pond of mire. We could see cars off to the side of the road and Bill slowed down and stopped. There we saw a fellow that had driven his car into the mire pond and was out sloshing around in it covered from head to toe. He wasn’t sober and he was a spectacle, with many spectators looking on. But not Bill. Bill went to the man’s side. The poor old fellow had lost his hat, and reached down to grab it and replaced it on his head; the contents of the mire streaming down his face. Bill put his arm around him, brought him back to the pickup, wrapped him in a tarp and slowly drove him home. When we got there, Bill told us he was sorry to inconvenience us, but that he would go in and get him cleaned up and start a fire and make sure he was okay. When he returned, he said how sorry he felt for the man who’d explained he’d just gotten his taxes done and it was worse than he’d been prepared for. I’ve never forgotten the lesson of love, compassion and pure charity Bill had for that man. That was who Bill was.”
Uncle Bill passed away on Sunday, March 4th. The world was a better place for his being here. A man of many talents and one who dearly loved horses, his last ride was most fitting with his team of horses and in the wagon he made, with his two brothers riding alongside the driver and the horse without a rider trailing behind:
I was lucky enough to help come up with a fitting arrangement to honor him. My sister in law and I tossed around ideas, settling on this:
Sadly, his sweet wife, who endured a scrape with death last summer of cancer, has but a short time left herself. She said she’d come back to help him through his exit and final days of suffering, now her mission is complete. Her nurse told mom yesterday she thinks it won’t be long. She deserves to be with her husband, but our hearts ache for the loss of two beloved family members so close together.
As I stood next to dad at the burial service of Bill, tears streaming down my face as I listened to the playing of “Taps” on the trumpet, my dad in his wheelchair at my side looked up and said, “I think I might be next in line.” I kissed him on the head and said, “Yes, I think you might.”
Life is full of challenges. The wise words of my uncle echo in my head, “I guess I have had my share of problems, but I figure everybody faces problems in their life. I don’t think it matters what the problem is but how you meet it that counts.”