I was only in 9th grade when Uncle Bubba was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of brain cancer. Although my time with him was much briefer than I would have chosen, the lessons I learned from him linger to this day.
Uncle Bubba was a quiet, unassuming man with a passion for God. He worked for many years at a NAPA parts store, which was just one of the reasons he seemed to know everybody. An active servant in his church, he always had a smile and warm-hearted word to offer. In fact, I don’t remember ever seeing him in a bad mood.
During his short 42 years of life, he modeled the importance of family responsibility and contentment. I remember the many times he would call the house to talk with my dad, usually several nights each week. They each loved listening to the police scanners and keeping up with the goin’s-on in the area.
I remember the trip we made to Memphis for Libertyland and the time our two families made an overnight get-away to Vicksburg to step back to the time of the Civil War.
Perhaps my fondest memories were those that involved cooking out. Uncle Bubba made the best hamburgers. To this day, every time I grill, I think of him and wonder if my burgers even come close. (I have a feeling they don’t, but I know that he’d tell me they’re terrific.) Of course, he’d have to have a bag of plain Lay’s potato chips to eat with them. Those were definitely his favorite.
Twenty years have come and gone, and yet even with the passing of time, the loss still rears its head in ways that sometimes catch me off-guard. As I spend some time reflecting on the blessings of a life well-lived, I pray that God would give me many opportunities to be a blessing to others as well.
Grief is a funny animal. It seems you never really get over a loss. In fact, that really shouldn’t be the goal. The major task of grief is to get through the loss, reorganizing life effectively and building a relationship with the memories that remain. For me, that has helped ease the pain of a loss that left me with unanswered questions, burning anger, and profound sadness. Tears still stream when I think about how hard I wept when I found out my prayers hadn’t been answered in the way I had hoped.
Twenty years. . . . seems impossible that I’ve had several years’ more life without him than with him. Yet the power of his influence is unmistakable. That provides more evidence of the importance of a life well-lived.
May you focus today on the things that matter most in life. Hug your family. . . call your friends. . . celebrate little joys. Today is a gift to be opened with anticipation and gratitude.
Make today count.