Uncle Tom was a big man. His voice was booming and low, and when I was a kid, he could scare me when he raised his voice with my cousins. But he had a smile that filled up his face when he was amuzed, and his heart for service dominated his life as I knew it.
I’m thinking of my mom’s big brother today because my husband and I took the kids out to the military cemetery for Memorial Day for my first visit back since he went home to be with Jesus this March.
I cried. Not because I believe he is stuck there in the ground at that site, but because he isn’t here with us any more. Isn’t that most what we cry for when a loved one has passed? I don’t cry for what they are missing here, I cry for what we are missing not to have them here.
I also cried for my mom, who although she admits as a kid he teased and picked on her much, even pulling off heads of her dolls and dismembering Barbies…she knew how much he loved her as they grew to be adults. And as if he knew the end was near, the last time he saw her he hugged and hugged her as they stood by the door to say goodbye, saying, “I just can’t stop hugging you!”
And I cried for my cousins. Especially his oldest daughter who was states away when we all gathered in Uncle Tom’s home to love on him the night he passed. His 4 kids don’t have the dad he was to each one of them. And I think he had an amazingly unique relationship with them all.
I cried for my Aunt too. His wife for my entire life, I had only known them together. I had never known them apart. They were one in my mind. I can’t imagine the agony of waking to each day to again find him not there.
And yet, the eternal servitude he exuded will live on in her. Perhaps with a new zeal. She has a faith that can move mountains and conjure miracles. I know she will endure and my cousins are going to remain huddled around her all the rest of her days lest she forget for one moment the love they created lives on in their family forever.
I didn’t know my Uncle as a soldier, but I knew he had served in the US military. Movies like South Pacific made me think I could picture him in action, though Vietnam couldn’t have been anything like a Roger’s and Hammerstein classic.
I am left today with a heavy heart. I love my Uncle, and I miss him. I am proud of him. I believe God had a good and faithful servant in my Uncle Tom. And I don’t know of a greater thing we can be called to be.
Thank you, my dear Uncle Tom for your service. Not only in the Marine Corp, but in all the years that stretched across your life since then too.