Tag Archives: funeral

Fortress

Sometimes, God sees fit to place us, from birth, in the care of a mother who will spend the rest of her days mastering the skill of motherhood. These mothers, they never stop learning, all the while, they teach and perpetually apply a lifetime of lessons. Then, as life meanders speedily along, and it takes us wherever we may roam, these mothers, they are somehow always right where we need them to be. They are steady. They are strong. They are safe. They are immense, while remaining the softest place to land. They are bold. They are patient. They bite their tongues long enough for us to learn our own way. They have our backs just because we ask them to. They hurt for us more than we do. They worry for us more than we do. And as we travel through the ups and downs, they are always there for us, they are our fortress.


A tribute to: Vivian C. (Lapointe) Kotowski

HOOKSETT — Vivian C. (Lapointe) Kotowski, 83, of Hooksett, died March 30, 2017 at Maple Leaf Health-Care Center in Manchester after a brief illness. She was born in Manchester on February 27, 1934 to Arthur and Gilberte (Cote) Lapointe. She lived in Manchester for many years before moving to Hooksett in 1977.

Vivian worked at a number of places over the years, most recently at Hannaford Supermarket in Hooksett.

She was a member of the Kiwanis Club of Hooksett and the NH Chapter of the Association of Retirees of Eversource and Northeast Utilities (ARENU).

The family includes her husband of 59 years, Frank R. Kotowski of Hooksett; three children, Lori Uliasz and her husband, Gregory, of Bedford, James Kotowski and his wife, Vicki Montgomery, of Floyds Knobs, IN and Susan Beal of Manchester; seven grandchildren who were her world, Meghan Uliasz and her fiancé, Tom Stackhouse, Greg Uliasz, Zack Uliasz, Stephen, Ryan and Erin Beal and Lydia Kotowski; a sister Gertrude Burke of Manchester; and nieces and nephews.

SERVICES: There are no calling hours. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Monday at 10 a.m. at Holy Rosary Church, 21 Main St., Hooksett. Committal prayers will follow in the chapel of the NH State Veterans Cemetery, 110 Daniel Webster Highway, Boscawen.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Hooksett Kiwanis Kids Closet, c/o Hooksett Kiwanis Foundation, P.O. Box 16443, Hooksett, NH 03106.

Lambert Funeral Home & Crematory, Manchester is assisting the family with arrangements. To leave a message of condolence, visit www. lambertfuneralhome.com.

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Arthur Tsetsilas

Arthur Tsetsilas

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Arthur Tsetsilas, I had him as a coach in baseball, playing alongside his son, Tim.

Tonight, I made the short drive to Londonderry, NH. I drove through familiar neighborhoods on my way to the funeral home. Some of the roads I drove on, weren’t even there when I was growing up in Londonderry. Unfortunately, I am all too familiar with this funeral home. This past April, I stood in the same room that I was in tonight, in front of the gathering, in tears, remembering my Dad.

This evening as I stood among the large crowd of people inside that very room, I listened as my friend Tim, remembered his Dad. I reverently watched as “Taps” was played and the American Flag was presented. I wiped away a few tears as Tim mentioned so many of the things, that will “never be” again, as his Dad is gone. I got a lump in my throat as I remembered many of my own interactions with Mr. Tsetsilas and his family. The room was full, and overflowing. The line was long, and wound down the driveway outside. Cars lined Mammoth Road across the road from the high school that so many of us attended decades, yes, decades ago.

I talked to my Mom on the phone during part of my drive to Londonderry. I had hoped my wife could join me, but we had 3 or 4 places to be all at the same time. I told my wife, and my Mom, how I don’t like going to these things. Not because of time, or respect, or any other thing, except for one thing. When I walk into those rooms, I know that there is someone, or maybe many someones, who are dealing with perhaps the toughest times of their entire life in those moments. This is where I pray a little more, I ask for the right words, along with extra love and compassion. I have written too many times on this subject, it seems. Here are some words that I have shared before, in times like these…”Please don’t think that this is over when the news stops running or the stories stop circulating. You and I may be a part of the plan. Anyone of us could be instrumental. Our words, our actions, just might be the right thing at the right time for the one who needs that spoken word or the example they were looking for. Really it’s always supposed to be that way. We are human, and our best moments aren’t all of our moments. Yet the more we think our moments are our best, the more they will be. And the moment we decide that we need to be our best might just be the moment that God’s plan includes us to be the message for someone needing to see that something that helps them cope and overcome.

As I stood in a crowd, shoulder to shoulder with hundreds, I looked for someone I recognized, someone I knew. There had to be many but I wasn’t sure where the line was, or if there was a line at all. Then, Rich, Russ, Stephanie, Sean, Tim, and Peter were all around me, and the line I sought, became a little less important for a moment. While I was still in virtually the same spot that I landed, upon clearing the front door, the service started. We all stood and listened to the tribute(s) for the man, whose passing had brought us together this February evening.

I listened closely, and in the moments following, when folks who had already been through the line, began to file outside, I picked up the trail of the line again. I watched a slide show, that was playing on a screen along the line, of pictures from Arthur’s life. I went through the line with Peter, who, thankfully, kept me company while I scanned the crowds for people I knew but didn’t necessarily recognize. I saw Chris, Becky, Tom, Wayne, Todd, Dave, Mike, Jonesy, and more. I spoke with almost every one of these folks mentioned, and more. There were two women from the Class of 89 in line behind me, who knew my brothers, and since I was Class of 85, I referred to myself as the ancient oldest brother.

I thought about Londonderry, this little town when I moved into town in 1972, that is so much bigger now. Imagine a time when we were all young, and in this town, that none of us picked, where we all grew up. Our parents were there for a myriad of reasons, but to us, this is where, and with whom we lived, and so our roots were cultivated. We went to classes together. We learned together. We overcame hurdles, nuances, and quirks together as we matured and grew. We had fun together. We competed together. We saw highs and lows together. We watched as one class, and the next, and so on, graduated and went their separate ways. For many of those kids, the names I mentioned, I hadn’t seen them since those days. Still I would call them my friends because I don’t see why years removed should have changed that.

See back in the day, as it were, any of us, if not all of us, could have easily run into each other on any day of school. We could have just as easily gathered in the yard at the Arthur Tsetsilas residence in South Londonderry, to play basketball, grill some burgers, and swim in the pool. All of us could have been present at a gymnastics meet (that’s for you Steph), a soccer game, a football game, a basketball game, or even on the baseball diamond. Most all of this group could have been at the rec hall playing basketball or volleyball at any given time as well. We all followed each other, mostly because we all wore Londonderry on our uniforms, but in another way, because we were among the individuals that were all better for having been together. And somehow tonight, it felt like we were all a little better for being in that room together, again. Maybe it was just me.

If my memory is what it used to be, then I have forgotten. Arthur Tsetsilas coached me for years, while I played Babe Ruth Baseball. I was an unobservant teen, living and loving the days of my youth. I wish I remembered more personal stories about Arthur, Tim and Shawn’s Dad. What I do remember is that we were all perfectly attentive, mild-mannered, and wonderfully humble, quiet kids that were a breeze to work with. Please don’t correct me if I am wrong. Honestly though, having coached for many years, and having been a father now for 25 years, I grew to respect Mr. Tsetsilas even more. Tonight, I wanted to show that respect, and to support the Tsetsilas family.

I wrote on the online guest book that Mr. Tsetsilas was a “Popeye-esque” figure in my mind. To me, that’s a good thing. Mr. Tsetsilas was athletic, and he was strong. He mumbled some, and if you were close enough, and quick enough, to catch his commentary, he was hilarious. Maybe the biggest feather I would place in his cap, would be his commitment to volunteerism, because it was second to none. His work ethic knew no boundaries, and that included everything he put himself into. I don’t remember struggles, difficulties, or drama with his teams, because Mr. Tsetsilas made everything easy for us, seamless. We had the luxury of being exactly what we were best at, being kids. Tim or Shawn might correct me on this, or they may concur, but to me, Mr. Tsetsilas had mastered a skill that I have tried to master myself. He was serious enough to do an honest day’s work, while leading by example, making friends for life out of sheer respect, and raised a family to be adults that have no excuses, all while never fully ceasing to be a kid. That, to me, is the secret that Mr. Tsetsilas taught all of us, and we all benefited by him living that way.

Some 600 people showed up tonight, I heard. And countless others have been positively been impacted by the life of Mr. Arthur Tsetsilas. As we settle in, before we drift to sleep the next time, may we pray for Tim and Shawn, and the entire Tsetsilas family. To my generation, may we remember the days where “Londonderry” across our chest was enough that none of us would leave a teammate behind, and we’d run through a wall if we had to. So may we also be present for Tim and Shawn, and family as reality continues to press to the forefront. These times can be difficult, numbing, and seem completely hopeless, but there is light, there is always light. The definition of darkness goes something like this: the partial or total absence of light. Let us be that light should they need it.

Folks, I am sure I left some people out, or just flat didn’t recognize you. For that, I apologize. I am so happy that I was able to see so many people from another time in life. It meant a lot to me. I am even more pleased that we were all there for the Tsetsilas family. Rest in Peace Arthur. You will be missed. You will be remembered.

Funeral

I climbed the hill on foot, but it wasn’t much of a rise. For some reason though, my feet didn’t want to go. It just felt like I was walking through both, the sands of time, and quicksand all at once. Imagine making strides just to make them, but wishing not to take a single step. Forces fell from somewhere, making the quest more of a question, than a statement. I walked hand in hand with my bride, partly because the pull from the gravity of the situation made it a necessity to move forward with her at my side.

The hill crested, round the bend we came. Faces were familiar if not just the same. And the door loomed like the wall of a fortress that I’d rather not breach. I stepped up but the closer I got the further that handle seemed from my reach. Until all at once I found myself inside. As soon as I was seen, part of me wanted to run away and hide. Every hair on my neck stood up, for the feeling in there was just not right. I had come here on purpose, to stand, maybe, for those who no longer were here to fight. Still I was afraid of what was yet to come. There were people in a line, and it wallowed aimlessly it felt, not knowing where it went, or whether I’d rather run. I waited though, holding my wife’s hand, and hoping for something good. But I have been to many a funeral and this one didn’t feel like it should.

The line writhed forward, like it was wringing away every last bit of good. Until finally, with my wife, at the front, we stood. But I was wrong, it wasn’t the good that had left the room, but rather the feeling of evil had entered and hung like a thick black smoke over everyone and every thing. I can’t say that I have ever felt that way before, but it was a place to which not a soul I’d ever again wish to bring. It was almost as those we met, were there because they had to be. And I dreaded anything even close to that sense, were something ever to happen to me. We talked with those there, gathered and disconnected, somehow I sensed. We smiled and we cried, we shared our stories, while this virtual wall of darkness, I felt myself pressed against.

My heart skipped several beats as I looked down and saw the young son left here to carry the light that once held him. And I wondered how a life so warm and beautiful could end up remembered here in a scene so bleak and grim. I searched for my next breath as I had lost my sense of where I was, and stopped, paralyzed by the weight of deep sorrow. I sobbed and wondered how it is that one full of love here one day, was taken from each and every tomorrow. Either way, it was time to move on, to the next stop in this old place. There was nothing more to see here, for the warmth of nurturing love had been compromised, with barely a trace.

Then we spilled into a room, that was just as uneasy to enter, like the next chapter in a book that was missing too many pages to make sense. But there we found smiles among the tears of co-workers, truest of friends. I didn’t have words for anyone then, as I found myself in a battle with the now, and all that I previously knew. So, I smiled in hopes that the look in my eyes would say all that I couldn’t, and reflect the love and passion for the children of the one we remembered, to help others get through.

I don’t know what felt better, getting outside to the fresh air, or knowing that we stood for the warmth of the fallen who cared for many, more than most. See, she stood for the child and acted on it, while so many others noticed, but only came close. Then, ever-changed, we wandered, back down the hill. We got to the car and stood there talking, shaking our heads, in tears, baffled still. I sobbed, as I shared my emotions with my wife. I talked of the thin line so attached, to that so precious, a human life. Were there more of us that looked past the frailties and labels we are so quick to place, we’d be so much better in general. So there we left it, set to remember and share, knowing full well that I’d never forget that funeral.

The Man is Gone

This morning is a little more quiet than mornings have been recently. See, the crowds are gone. The stash of food prepared for family and visitors has been split and donated. The checklist doesn’t have any more boxes to check. There’s no nursing home to visit. The hospital room is empty. The seat at the end of the couch is carefully prepped, but shadows only find refuge there this morning. The Daily Light is worn, but sees no more left-handed cursive in ink. The chair, walker, and cane wait, but Dad needs them no more. The world is maybe in a sadder state, as a soft smile went away.

Oh it pains me to know that all the efforts made will now only know past tense. The sacrifices so many people made, and that they would do anything to help my Dad, and my Mom; still the willingness is there, but the man is gone.

The man is gone. Oh, but his spirit lives on. I need to look no farther than the small gathering at Mom and Dad’s after all of the formalities were completed yesterday. All three of my Beal cousins, a new friend, Dad’s brother and his wife, Mom, two siblings of mine, and one of my brothers-in-law, sat for a few hours together, doing what Dad did best. We laughed, oh my, did we laugh. The scene in the living room yesterday could have been from any one of the last 40+ years; From any Beal get together in my lifetime. Oh, and Dad, he would have been right in the middle of it all, loving it, and laughing. Dad’s presence was felt, his impact impossible to miss. I don’t think he was looking down from heaven at us, because I am hoping he had better things to do, like lose himself in his mother’s waiting arms, or to look his Dad in the eye and hear the words, “Well done son”. Maybe he was off creating comedy from nothing with his twin sister June. Perhaps he was walking the streets of gold and getting to know his brother Roger, who passed away as a baby, before any of the other siblings. Or just maybe he was sitting on a hill somewhere, soaking in the beauty of perfection while trying to contain the excitement that one day, we too, will know. Were Dad still bound by the weight of this imperfect, cursed, earth, he would have been centered perfectly in his comfort zone, among us.

During the proceedings yesterday, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much Dad would have loved to be there and see everyone. To me, there was just one person missing, because Dad wasn’t there. I know we were all there to honor, remember, and celebrate my Dad. There was a body in the casket, but Dad, he wasn’t there. Pastor Little, who delivered the message, said it best when we told us all that Dad had preached his own funeral with the life he lived, and his walk with God. Pastor was right. Not only that, but on Thursday morning, when Dad’s hands were held by the earthly love of his life, he breathed his last breath, and didn’t miss a step in his walk with God.

I don’t honestly know how most funerals go. I don’t know how most people view funerals, or even how they think of them when the word ‘funeral’ is mentioned. I would guess, that many, if not most, funerals are flavoured with despair and uncertainty. Oh, if I could get everyone to a funeral like the one we had for my Dad yesterday. I would refer people also, to the funeral that I attended when I was a 17-year-old know it all, when my Mom’s mother passed away. Oh what a celebration! In both instances, there was no despair. There was no uncertainty. Oh the freedom found in salvation. There was joy. There was a bounty of thankful hearts. Thankful for no more suffering. Thankful for the memories made together. Thankful for the impact our loved one had left on our lives. Thankful for the promise God made. Thankful for the example we got to see everyday. Thankful for the stand taken when many of us would have wavered. Thankful that we are better people for having walked closely with one who passed.

Before I get to the speech I read at Dad’s funeral yesterday, I dare walk closely again. Dad, I love you. Dad, I will, and already do miss you. Dad, I will miss the trips to Dunkin Donuts. Dad, I will miss the stories shared. Dad, I was always listening. Dad, your smile will never be forgotten. Dad, your humor is engrained in all of us, thank you. Dad, a long, high-arching, jump shot will always be in my mind’s eye when I think of you. Dad, most of my driving derring do I learned from you. Dad, I also paid attention and learned how to excel at driving from you. Dad, I will miss the trips with you and Mom to New Brunswick, but I will take it from here, you taught me well. Dad, I thank you for creating a seamless family with the Beal-Peterson connection, for I fear there are few family bonds like this left in the world today. Dad, I know your heart and soul were ever-present even when the body started to fail. Dad, thank you for the lessons in love. Dad, thank you for wavering not in your walk with God. Dad, thank you for doing life your way, unique to you. Dad, I am glad you broke so many molds along your way, so much would have been missed in containment. Dad, thanks for the glimpses into your free spirit, rarely are people fortunate enough to be touched by someone’s unencumbered lust for life and the joys found in the details. Dad, thank you for being my Dad. Dad, I am thankful that God chose us to be a father-son combination. Dad, thank you for choosing Mom. Dad, what if I forget how to walk like you? Dad, thank you for growing old without ever growing up. Dad, I can’t wait to see you again, and to look into those pure blue eyes, and smile together like giddy children so happy to see each other. Dad, thank you for everything.



 

This is exactly the speech I struggled through yesterday at my Dad’s funeral. Thank you to my brother for editing it down from the full story, found here (please have a read of the whole thing if you’d like).

Dad – Funeral

My Dad, John R. Beal, passed away Thursday  morning, April 14, 2016. I can honestly say that my initial thoughts and feelings of pain and finality, were followed quickly by the sense of relief that my Dad suffered here no more. Although the former thoughts and feelings will stay close to me for some time, I know complete peace as Dad made his way to his eternal home Thursday around 8am.

Just the Thursday before I sat with him in the nursing home, he in his wheelchair, me in a vinyl, beastly looking contraption that looked and felt like it could withstand the World Wars. We sat facing each other, next to his bed. He didn’t say very much that day, as had become more and more the norm these last few months. But I noticed that his face and his eyes looked more alive than I had seen in months. I took joy in that smile whether it’s effect reached the rest of his face or not, because the eyes gave it away. We sat, just he and I, for 90 minutes, listening to an Old School Country Music playlist. I knew he thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent, as did I. I was happy to see Dad, happy.

That visit with Dad in the nursing home was the last time I would see my Dad alive. Really alive. I was with him most of the day, in the hospital on Wednesday the 13th, but he wasn’t really alive. He had vital signs and they were good. But he was completely unresponsive and never opened his eyes. Our family was there all day, and Mom spent the night in a chair (similar to the one I described in the nursing home) next to Dad.

Dad was born in 1941. If he had been born during the last two decades it’s likely he would have been tagged, or somehow otherwise labeled, as having a learning disorder or disability. But, as God and His perfect timeline would have it, Dad was born before everything needed labels and corresponding medication. I am certain he suffered in some ways from the forcible learning/teaching habits taught from some book, that until recently, nobody thought to re-write, that incorporated the will to push all pegs, even in their asymmetrical diversity, through the same hole. Dad was different for sure. Thank God. These battles, many of which, maybe not another soul knows of, but I am certain they happened; Turned into a drive and determination that Dad displayed in areas where most of us wouldn’t apply. His resiliency was more between his ears, than anywhere, because that’s where the battles were fought, and where the weakness resided. I am saying that his methods, comprehension, and responses were questioned as a matter of the brain he was wired with. He was sound. He just had limitations in the physical aspects of his brain. God created him that way, and for 74+ years he worked with the equipment he had. He did what he had to, and he got by. Nowadays maybe he would have been labeled, separated, and led away from the pack, stunting growth, killing creativity, and who knows how that would have gone.

God knew what He was doing though. Dad was one of the best preachers I ever heard. Dad could mix humor into any sermon, illustration, or story without ever being silly. Greater still, you knew exactly what he meant, and his relatability was second to none. God gave him words, thought patterns, and a perspective to pull things together in a light that changed lives, touched hearts, and led to the eternal saving of souls. Honestly, what greater purpose could a man be called to? That was my Dad and he was great at it.

I just lost my Dad, and maybe I am gushing a bit, but he wasn’t any more perfect than any of us are. But I choose to hold him in regard to the greatest attributes of his life. Once I got a little bit older, he wasn’t terribly hands-on as a father. He loved and he led, but he did so at arm’s length. He was proud of us, and he loved nothing more than to watch his kids compete or perform. He taught us right from wrong. He did play with us, he was there. I don’t have a list of things he taught me or things he always said. See when you have every dinner together and spend so much time together as a family, all six of us, in those moments there are countless lessons, examples, and quotable spoken contribution. It was on us to pay attention, and we did. He didn’t come out and say this is how to be a man, this is how to do this or that, but his commitment to the Word of God, the teachings found therein, and the scriptures was a lesson anyone could benefit from. He was a family man. We were a family that was together a lot. We gathered on holidays with extended family, and Dad would have it no other way. The greatest gift he left me was the way to heaven. There is but one way. Jesus said,”…I am the way, the truth, and the life…”.

Being a son of Tom Brokaw’s self-proclaimed “Greatest Generation”, he has set a pretty high bar for the rest of us.

See, me, and my generation, we hope to be measured one day in the same breath as the great people of the generation before us. In that generation the simplicity of life lived was the stunning portrayal choreographed by the depth found in the intricacies of magnificent minds with the perceived time to approach extraordinary. I am just a man, my Dad was a great man, a great man of God. His new place in heaven ensures what should always be, that I’ll look up to him. I do, and I will.

Dad didn’t want to leave this world but he did want to go home. We found out after the fact that he had shared with nursing home personnel on Tuesday that “he was ready to go home.” To his heavenly home. You know it’s kind of interesting to think about the state of the world we live in today, is the same world we cling to at the end. In our infinite mortality, we fight to stay here just a little longer, as those gathered long for the suffering not to leave this place. Two points that I choose to notice, one, that it’s the people not the place, we long to stay with; two, our heavenly home that awaits is so much better than anything we can comprehend here.

For the last five years or so, I have spent a lot more time with my Dad than I had previously as an adult. I heard a lot of stories over and over, and other simple things that are neither here nor there. But really, I learned a lot about Dad, and gained another level of respect for him, especially as a man of God. One thing that was always very present with Dad, and that I have seen present in many others over the years, were his smiling eyes. Or as I might dare say, a saved person’s eyes, or Christian eyes. In those eyes, the whites are white, and the light shines a little more bright. These windows to the soul are clear, and they sparkle, for in the depths of those saved souls, fear does not dwell. Even through these difficult months, Dad’s eyes rarely dimmed. And in those eyes, I saw so much love.

In the end of Dad’s time here on earth he suffered. He fended off so many attacks on his brain over the last 11 years. Much to all of our dismay, and opposite of our best wishes and prayers, Dad never regained the elevation in steps that he had previously climbed to once a medical event had happened. He got close. He often times maintained, which is still susceptible to the aging process we all face. Though he battled, he never could advance against the damage done to his command center. He lived on. He loved on. He smiled often. He welcomed all whether we knew it or not. In his fashion simple things continued to be his most revered things in life. Right up to the hands that held his while he grabbed at his last breath.

Although you folks hearing this, may have known him as John, Pastor Beal, Uncle John, brother, brother-in-law, Reverend John Beal, or Mr. Beal; I am happy to have always known him as Dad. While we are here today to remember and honor, I am happy to report: Dad is home. Dad is happy. Dad is healthy. Dad is at perfect peace.

The Hug

May 20, 2013

Maybe it’s just me, but while I was growing up, I guess I never really gave any thought to the fact that my heroes and I would ever be adults at the same time. Of course, back then, I didn’t exactly think of my role models or my relatives as heroes either. Quite honestly, I didn’t understand myself or my truest values very well either. I guess there are a couple of points I should get to. One, in my eyes, I’m still just a kid compared to my parents, and to my aunts and uncles. Two, many of these people are, or were, my heroes.

I wrote these words while lying in a hall bed at my mother’s double cousin’s house. I was in town for the calling hours and funeral of my Aunt Janette. After driving six hours, enjoying dinner with family, going to the calling hours and visiting with family, I laid down to crash. But before sleep found me, I reached for these words and recorded them, raw and real.

Tonight, I saw pictures that brought me back to another time, visually, and ultimately in my mind I was taken back to a whole different era. Also tonight, one of my, bigger than life, heroes was standing right in front of me. I was waiting in line to visit with him, and his family, during calling hours for my Aunt Janette, his wife of 45 years, who had passed away three days prior. And even though I would put my Uncle Lloyd in the “hugs aren’t absolutely necessary, a handshake will do” category, I had long since decided that I was going to give him a big, warm hug upon my chance to be face to face with him. A big hug, that’s exactly what I was going to do. You might say, okay, big deal. Or maybe you’d even ask why a hug at all. I’ll explain. I wanted to hug my Uncle Lloyd and hold him for a moment, or two, to let him know how much he and Aunt Janette meant and always will mean to me. I wanted to hug him because here stood this man, no longer with his best friend at his side, but still greeting all who approached him in the best way he knew how, as his wife would also have done. I wanted to hug him because I love him. I wanted to hug him because I was hoping the genuine action itself would speak the volumes that my tear-soaked face, and emotionally overwhelmed, cracking, voice was not going to be able to get the words out. I wanted to hug him because he looked like he needed one, and I felt I did too. I wanted to hug him out of pure respect. I wanted to hug him because, while a handshake with a man of his caliber still means an awful lot, a hug would be unforgettable. I wanted to hug him in hopes that in some out-of-this-world way I could give him strength, support, encouragement, energy, stability, and reinforcement during such a difficult time. So, finally, I faced him, just he and I, suddenly alone in this little sliver of space, among the many in that sanctuary, and I gave my Uncle Lloyd a big hug. He said some things to me that I hope I never forget, we cried, and my voice worked just as poorly as I thought it would.

Pictures I saw at the front of the church, along the entrance to the sanctuary, and out in the hall took me down my own memory lane. I saw again, the beauty of my aunt and how it was always present where ever she was. I also saw the fit, strong, fearless, young man who my uncle was as I first remember him. Present too in those pictures, in a person who was so comfortable in his own skin, was the gleam of youthful, good-natured, mischievousness in his eyes. There’s more to the memories and visions that swirl through my mind when I think on those times, those days, those visits, and those interactions with versions of these same people before me tonight, but I will save them for another time. In the church, before the masses that gathered to share memories, condolences, and prayers, the gleam was elsewhere, and the beauty was in a better place. So, I just tucked those memories away and carried on with the evening. I visited. I cried. I hugged family. I heard stories. I sat, seeking the comfort found in numbers, among my aunts, my cousins, my second-double cousins, and the others somehow related but beyond my scope of properly defining their relations with appropriate lineage terminology.

May 22, 2013

Fast-forwarding through several hours, after sleep, after breakfast, after a visit to the farmlands, after the service, and even after the committal, I was standing out behind The People’s Church next to the burial plot as the Pastor finished the proceedings in prayer. I had family all around me, an aunt on my left arm, and aunt on my right arm, and my mother and my uncle directly in front of me. The prayer ended and I lifted my bowed head and opened my watery eyes. I looked around and for a second or two those who had gathered did not move. Silence prevailed and movement was scarce. Then, as if put in motion by something greater than himself, my Uncle Lloyd turned and just started greeting the dozens of family members and friends who had gathered throughout the little cemetery. He went to every single person. I stood among my aunts, cousins, and second-double cousins, and quietly, I waited.

Finally, my Uncle Lloyd approached me. We stood face-to-face on the soft, uneven, grass of the rain-soaked hillside. Again, every one else seemed to disappear and I heard no other sounds. Standing before me was this man who I revered more than he knows. Actually, maybe only my mother would have an idea as to how much he means to me. This day, there was no doubt, and we both welcomed the opportunity to share a manly hug. I said the only words I could say before emotions rendered my voice-box useless, “I love you.” He hugged me and said a few words to me that I will hold to myself. Simple words, simply stated, a few times, and they meant more to me than all the words I could ever write in description of knowing him for my entire life, right through to that moment. We parted and he made his way up the gradual slope toward the church and another gathering that I will also, some day describe. For now, I will just sit and treasure these moments too. Again, I bow my head and say a prayer. A prayer for him, a prayer for me, and a memory made between a couple of hugs. Amen.