Nine years ago I lost the coolest person I could ever imagine knowing, my Uncle Michael.
What made him so "cool" you ask? Well, I have been asking myself that same question since his death. It was a lot of things really. Those memories of his coolness have kept me laughing when I've wanted to cry.
He was only 10 years older than me. I can't remember ever calling him anything but Uncle, but at the same time, he felt more like a big brother. Maybe that came from living together. When I was little my Mom and I lived with my grandparents and, since he wasn't an adult yet, he lived there too.
Welcome to Memory Lane:
It would be early morning and time to get ready for school and I would run to his room for him to hide me (or at least delay the morning a little). We would snuggle and throw dirty laundry from his floor at the light switch every time an adult tried to get us to wake up and move. He was my partner in crime on those mornings.
When they finally got us up, we'd eat cereal together and watch cartoons. He would gripe when I chose to watch Bozo or Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, but actually sit with me and watch if I chose Yogi bear or Scooby-Doo.
He'd let me pick through his trash when he'd clean his room. He always had the best stuff. He'd pay me to clean up his dog's pen or to keep secrets. He filled my piggy bank.
Sometimes he'd pay me a whole dollar just to let him poor jelly on my face or crack an egg on my head. I told you he was like a big brother.
He worked on cars a lot and let me shake the spray paint can before he sprayed his engine gold.
My funniest story with him is about "Bob".
I was born with a cyst on the back of my head. One day my Uncle showed me an article about a man who had a mass on his side that turned out to be the remains of his dead twin. After reading the article he pointed out that my mother always said I "could have been twins". He then tapped my head and said "What do you think about that, Bob?"
We were adults before I confessed that he actually had me convinced that my cyst was my twin. He claimed he didn't remember that but laughed until he cried.
My Uncle was sentimental in the coolest way.
I remember him giving me a license plate from my dad's first motorcycle. My dad died when I was 3 month old and this trinket was a treasure to me. Better yet, he talked about my dad. Not many people in my family do. Every memory he shared was like gold.
When I had my daughter he gave me the same cigar my dad had given him when I was born. He'd saved it all those years!
Everyone loved him. He was silly and serious and exactly what you needed at any given moment. Even when there was conflict in the family, everyone could come together happily when he was there. He was the peacemaker. He never took sides or favored anyone. He just loved us all.
I was able to be there at the hospital 9 years ago. I had the privilege of saying goodbye. Even better, I got to be the tool God used to lead him to salvation.
After his death my Grandpa sorted through his things and found a lock box. I don't know what all was in that box of treasures, but I know some things. Packed away under lock and key was the card I made him for his 18th birthday, a letter I wrote him about Jesus and multiple valentines cards I'd made him over the years.
He valued me.
One card had a big heart on the cover and said "Love, and leave a mark". Boy did he!
People understand grief as a heart wrenching feeling. I get it. I've spent most of today holding back tears. You know what though? I think we could stand to remember that grief is also good.
Matthew 5:4 says "Blessed are you who mourn, for you will be comforted." This tells me that I'm blessed because of my grief. Because of this rotten emotional upheaval and the sadness grief brings, God feel compelled to come close to me. He offers his amazing comfort. He stirs up these precious memories. He restores my soul and brings joy in the morning.
Good grief! I'm blessed.