One of the primary influences in my life on my mom's side of the family has long been my Uncle Graham and Aunt Barbara. Most summers, we headed to North Carolina - from Pennsylvania, and then from Texas - to spend vacation time with Barbara, Graham and my cousins Chris, Robert and Tommy. Sometimes we made it to the beach; other times, we just hung out in Winston-Salem or Raleigh, eating together, picking tomatoes and getting to know one another. Cousin Chris terrorized me with Black Sabbath albums and frightening invitations to abandon Barry Manilow and get with the rock and roll culture.
Fortunately, both Chris and survived those teen years intact.
I watched my parents interact with my aunt and uncle. Together, they demonstrated all that was good about family: They loved their kids. They loved and honored their spouses. And, as brothers and sisters, they did life together.
|Uncle Graham and my dad|
My uncle loved, honored and respected my aunt. He was kind and courteous, and everything in his manner that I ever witnessed indicated that she was the queen of his world. In return, she cared for him and honored him as well. I saw that, and it sunk into my soul, and I've never forgotten.
We all grew up, and we continue to grow older. But my uncle has stepped ahead of all of us. He died last night, his body finally bowing to the stress and strain of 80-plus years of living well. He was a faith-filled man, and I say that not just to indicate that he has gone on to a better place. I say that because every single time I saw him - including the last time, just three months ago - he always gave verbal assent to the foundation of faith that fueled his journey. There is a Creator, and he is good, and though his ways are not our ways, and though we live in a broken, fallen world, faith tethers us to the life-giving freedom to know that we are not abandoned. My uncle demonstrated that in life, every day; and now, in his death as well.
My aunt grieves. We all grieve. Uncle Graham was a compassionate, loving, steadfast father, husband, grandfather, brother-in-law, and friend. I miss him. My heart aches for our next visit to North Carolina, when his absence will be felt more keenly and be that much more real to me. And my heart hurts for those closest to him, as moment by moment they remember his absence in their daily living.
But I know this: If there is any point to this life at all, it sits somewhere in the great, overwhelming tide of love and appreciation and goodness that we leave in the wake of a life well-lived, unto God - and the unyielding knowledge that God does, indeed, work all things together for good.
My uncle chose to live his life in a way that honored his God and his family, in word and in deed. In his living, and in his dying, tears of sorrow mingle with the deepest hint of glory of what is to come - not only in what we can't quite see through the veil, but also in the family who carries his legacy and his memory.
I am blessed, in this moment, to have been part of Graham Hair's family. He is one of the finest men I have ever known.