Friday, June 1, 2012

Uncle Dane

1947 ~ 2012

“O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead."
~ Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

My Uncle Dane died suddenly last Friday. He was a healthy, active, strong man with a heart that suddenly stopped. He was my mother's brother, younger than her by 18 months. He had a wife of 42 years, a son, a daughter, and four grandchildren. His obituary lists the many things he was involved in, giving of his time selflessly.

Literature is a part of my family legacy. My Gram was losing her short-term memory at the end of her life, but could still quote large passages of poetry that she had memorized years before. My Uncle's pastor, during his eulogy, talked about using Dane like a reference book when he needed to know where a line from Hamlet was or what book a favorite quote was from. I am nowhere near as well read as them or my mother, but I do love to read and collect books. I love this about my family, that books are lifeblood to us.

The pain is still too near for me to ponder all the mysteries of life, why Uncle Dane was taken now, or how my Aunt Candy will face life without him. The short and dirty truth is that this is life, and we live it on terms that are not our own. My Uncle Dane died much too young, but he had 20 more years than his own father had. There are no profound answers to be had about why he is gone, just profound loss.

I went to the barn while we were at the farm, and looked at all of the things that my uncle used and worked with every day. I said goodbye to the team of Belgians that will be sold now that there is no one to drive them. I touched the tools and saddles and remembered Uncle Dane teaching me how to brush and saddle a horse. I remember being a little girl and riding on his hip, while my cousin Lori rode on the other. I remember his great booming voice when he would pray before meals at family reunions. I remember his laughter and smile, for he had such joy in life. I remember his immense love for God's creation, and how he loved to be in the outdoors. I remember going raccoon hunting with him at night, and the sound of the hounds in the woods. And I remember most of all that Uncle Dane loved and served Jesus his whole life, and I know what joy he must have now that he is with our Maker, and with so many loved ones.
When we were preparing to leave and saying our goodbyes my aunt grasped my hands and wouldn't let go, asking me to please please drive safely and how much it meant that we had come such a distance to be there. But the distance was nothing and where would we be but with our family, to share the grief and memories? She wanted to give me gas money, which I refused. She insisted, and finally I said that I wouldn't take money but would love to take a book from my uncle's library. I chose Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass.

We drove the 400 mile trip on Monday, my sister and I, and then home again on Wednesday night. It felt like we had been gone weeks, and not just three days. Monday was my sobriety anniversary; 11 years. Yesterday was my wedding anniversary; 15 years. Both of these days barely registered in the shadow of this loss. I don't know where I would be without either of them though, my sobriety and my husband. I am blessed.

Goodbye, Uncle Dane. I cannot wrap my mind around the reality that you are gone. Maybe none of us ever will.  You were too young and too good and the unfairness of it is terrible. But we have the peace that only He gives, peace in the knowledge that we will see you again. God is good.


Sarah Wolfe said...

Shay....such a wonderful tribute. Your Uncle sounds like the type of man we all wish to know....and I would have loved hanging out in his library.

Praying for your family as you walk through this time.


KateO said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. Love the picture of him and E.
I pray you will be comforted...

Jeff and Meg said...

I am so sorry for your family's loss. He sounds like such a special man.

BeLoVed AiMeE said...

a beautiful tribute to your uncle. Love you.

Beacon2Light said...

Thanks for this, Shay. May God bring comfort to your family. Seeing things like this makes me think of our example and what legacy we will leave behind. What will our kids and other relatives remember about us? May all who come behind us find us faithful.