My uncle passed in October. I was preparing to go to St. Louis for a premier that, in the end, was rescheduled after all our travel arrangements were made and for an in studio interview about a project I did with the website I write for. My parents waited until I was off the air to tell me. I am forever grateful to them for creating a bubble around me, cushioning me from the news until after I left the studio. My brain wouldn’t process the news and I told my dad the joke wasn’t funny. Surely it had to be some twisted joke (our family does crazy pranks and, while this would have hit high on the macabre scale, wasn’t out the realm of a possible joke). My whole body went numb. I thank God in heaven a friend was with me. Thankfully she was the one driving. We discussed staying in STL or going home. The decision was made to stay and finish what I went there to do. I’ve rarely been more eager to not go home and yet run there simultaneously as I was that weekend.
The election was a mere three weeks away and, being a political and pop culture blogger, I had no time to waste or give up. I trudged on, refusing to stop, willing all tears to stay locked away. When we had a small memorial for him at my parents’ church I sat in the back texting with a friend. She’s the reason I was able to keep going. I doubt she’ll know how much I owe her for saving me like that. As of this writing the cause of death is still undetermined. Until now I haven’t stopped. I haven’t allowed myself the time or space to process what this loss means.
My uncle’s “official” funeral service was held in northern Michigan. Firefighters and Marines gathered to give him a proper goodbye. One of my other uncles was given his fireman’s helmet and my mom was given the flag and saluted by a Marine. Someone photographed the service.
I finally have a copy of the pictures. I opened them thinking I was okay to look at them. It’s been close to three months since his passing and I honestly thought I had it all under control. For the first time I let the tears fall.
My uncle wasn’t perfect. I hold no illusions. But he was a hero. He was a Marine. He was a fireman. He was a father, grandfather, brother, uncle, cousin, friend. He made mistakes and had his demons. He was generous and unreliable. He was prankster and made us laugh. My best childhood memories include my uncle and his son (my cousin passed November 2011).
My uncle loved his God, his family, and his country. He served his God, his family, and his country in the Marine Corp., as a firefighter, and as a small business owner. He was hero but most importantly he was my uncle.
At ease, Marine. Semper Fi.