When my family moved to the South a number of years ago, my father was no longer in the role of leading a congregation, at least for the following season of life. This meant our family needed to find a congregation to be part of. After a time, we found one. Then I met him, he was the Sunday school teacher. He was always exploring deep truths and usually used lofty vocabulary that my young teen-age self could hardly understand. When meeting him I had no idea how much my life would be affected by him.
Aside from weekly seeing him, I didn’t get to know him too well. Then in 2009 I embarked on a journey to Israel with people from my school and he joined our group along with his brother. We had an unexpected layover in Rome and had to carry our carry-on luggage around the city for the few hours we visited. If anyone knows about Rome, they will automatically add in the ‘hill factor’ to the on-foot exploration. I grabbed his bags as we climbed up the first hill, more out of fear that he’d have a heart attack or some health-related problem. Yet during that trip we became buddies and had a lot of fun reminiscing after getting back.
Then 2010 came along, it was January and I was riding in a large van, heading home from a conference in Michigan. My mom called to tell me that this man’s wife unexpectedly passed away. We were in shock; she was healthy and active—now gone. My heart ached, more for him than anything. I told my mom that to move on meant to be there to spend time with ‘Uncle’ Ed.
Thus began a new chapter of life. I’d sit with him on Sundays. We’d sing, doodle on our bulletins, and chat about the weeks happenings. Friday nights became a new favorite time of the week. After long days of studying and working—my sisters and I would go over to watch movies from yester-year. His brother would come over and we’d munch on snacks that Uncle Ed wasn’t supposed to eat. This weekly fun lasted for only a few months because the time came for me to pack up my life in two suitcases and move across the world.
Leaving Uncle Ed was one of the more challenging parts of moving. I didn’t want him to be lonely. I was happy that he had planned excursions around the country and filled his time staying busy. He also kept busy learning and reading to know more about his Creator and Savior.
Then when I heard the news that there was a lovely lady in his life, I couldn’t be happier. It was the kind of love story that melts your heart. He was her college professor back in the day, at a reunion for that school they were in a grieving seminar that was being led by her because she also lost her husband. They fell in love; they understood each other and enjoyed shared interests. Most of all they loved Jesus and that is the deepest soul bond anyone can have. I got to meet her on my first visit back to the states and was so thrilled. They were married in the summer of 2012, looking forward to several years together, at least.
In January my dad let me know that Uncle Ed was in the hospital. We thought it was his heart, but then it became apparent that it was his lungs. I texted him, as I would do once in a while, to let him know that I was coming ‘home’ and he needed to get better so that we could go have fun. My first night back my dad asked where I wanted to go, I told him to see Uncle Ed. Dad let me drive (brave man) and we went to the ICU to watch some super bowl together and catch up. He apologized for his appearance and wished he didn’t have tubes coming out of him. I was thankful, grateful he was alive. He told me he saw me daily. I smiled. That picture I took on his iPhone last year stayed there as his lock-screen background.
He headed to a rehabilitation center to regain strength. I visited him with my dad several times. We’d pray and ask that Father would heal him. My dad reminded him that the previous year Uncle Ed told dad to fight for life (and dad is still here!), and now it was his turn to fight for life. I cried on my plane ride as I read a sweet email from his wife. I knew what was coming.
Not long after arriving back to my home on the other side of the world, my parents let me know that he was going home and was to be cared for by hospice. My little sister spent as much time with him as she could. My heart ached that I couldn’t be there at that time. Then he graduated to glory. He was at peace. His life made complete with Jesus himself. I can’t wait to join him.