See You on the Other Side: A Tribute to Uncle Jesse
Last Christmas I received a handwritten card from one of my uncles. The slant of the letters looked like it had been difficult to write. This was the first time he had ever sent me a card, much less a handwritten note. Most communication for the past two decades had been me sending the yearly Christmas card or family update to him. We had grown apart through the years, but he was always near and dear to my heart.
He was the fun uncle, the wild uncle, and the best one to babysit my brother and I when we were small. He would come over decked out in leathers like Axl Rose or adorned with the latest Mr. T jewelry fad, ready to care for us. I vividly remember running to him, jumping into his arms and then he would spin me around; I felt like I was flying! He was a goof ball, changed his voice when he talked, and liked to joke around. When I was an adolescent, he came over on his motorcycle, the rumors of him riding with a big-name club filled my mind with imagination and awe. When I was in college we met for coffee, talked and I shared my dreams for the future. He attentively listened, smiled, and gave the occasional head tilt.
These past eleven months, we reconnected on a different level. I heard he was sick and not doing well, my fears were confirmed after receiving the card. When he entered hospice, I was in denial. He was like the cat with nine lives, certainly he would dodge this one.
He texted me an array of information about politics, health, and the occasional joke. He sent me old music he liked and talked about being a punk. At least that is what they used to call it. I messaged him Bible verses, pictures of the family and dogs and gave him reassurances. On a few particularly hard days at work, I texted him the SOS “tell me something funny”. He never disappointed.
I received the news this week that his nine lives ran out; another light from my family extinguished. And as grief disturbs my mind, I am comforted knowing that he is no longer in pain, but it certainly does hurt. I find myself clinging to the promise “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18).
In one of our last conversations, he told me that when he gets to heaven, he is going to have hundreds of dogs…I can hear them all barking now!