My siblings and I lost our brother when he was 23. We didn't have a full life with Greg, so we don't have the memories and the shared events that my mom and her brother had. My uncle Bud was 90. Think about what all transpires over 90 years.
Uncle Bud was kind, soft-spoken and handsome to boot. He was a strong, noble guy who loved to show his nieces and nephews new gadgets and games. He played the mandolin, and he played horseshoes. I didn't know any other uncles who did those things, so that made him pretty cool.
While we were visiting his family one summer, he pointed out the hot sauce on the kitchen table and how it contained even the seeds of the peppers. I thought he had to be the bravest guy around, to eat the seeds of a hot pepper. From that day on, in my ten year-old eyes, he was fearless.
I am so grateful I saw Uncle Bud last month at our family reunion. He was on the decline with Alzheimer's and was in an assisted living facility. He received an afternoon pass to join the family at a local resort for a meal.
After some time with family, he remarked to my cousin, "I don't know where I am...but this is better." His brain may have been muddled, but his heart knew he was surrounded by people who loved him.
I am sad today for my mom and my aunt and my cousins. Bud was such a gentle, loving force in our family. He will be tremendously missed. But, we all know that he is finally free from the agitation and fog of Alzheimer's. And there really is some comfort in that.
After talking with my cousin this morning, I learned more about Bud's passing. He was on a plane with his son, traveling home to Illinois after an extended stay in California. He died quietly in his seat, holding the hand of his son.
My cousin remarked that she can hear her dad thinking, in his engineer way, "I'm already thirty thousand feet high. Might as well just go on up."
I can hear that, too. Bud was a practical guy. The surly bonds of earth were already loosening their hold, and I believe the view he was beginning to see drew him home.
I can imagine his initial greeting to St. Peter: "I don't know where I am....but this is better."