My mother, Katherine Arachangela, is often heard saying…”I had five brothers growing up.” This meant, myself and my siblings and our 20 first cousins! had five uncles. They have all passed sadly and their names were Harry, Ed, Tommy, Bobby, and Billy. They each taught me something about life and this piece is a reflection on Uncle Bob. I am posting it now because he died almost three years ago around this time. His being brought light into the darkness for many…Uncle Bob you are missed!
January 2014~When I went to my Uncle Bob’s calling hours, I felt a sadness that echoed throughout my limbs and surfaced in a rain of tears. My Mother had, in her own, very succint, practical way pointed out to me, days before his death, that I was a niece he hardly new. (Not sure if this was not perhaps her dementia settling in or just her opinion.) This of course, this did not make the event any less sad.
I cried so hard because I saw my cousins in pain, because I saw all the times that I felt down and my Uncle was there to cheer me up. But most especially, I saw one Christmas night. Our family day done, my Mom wanted to visit her brothers that lived in town and she wanted all of us to go. A few of us went. I think she would have preferred we all go. She was so sad, my Mom, on that drive over to see my Uncles.
But when we arrived at Uncle Bob’s house and she started chatting, she cheered up. My cousins and I sat around their big beautiful tree talking. It was lovely.
Uncle Bob often brought the family together. He was the one who orchestrated my Uncle Harry’s memorial service at his home at 407 Milton when Uncle Harry, miles away, had done what rebellious Catholics due: had himself cremated in California (at least that is what I remember). Uncle Bob was also the person who showed up at my wedding with his camera and keen eye, our wedding photographer. I always suspected my Mother told him we didn’t have one and he just stepped up.
When I walked into his funeral the next day, I was not prepared to feel the spirit I felt…the singing from the local Hibernians and a man name Jack, a church packed with people touched by my Uncle Bob, and the soft light of Christmas’s closure.
Listening to the readings…a time to love, a time to die…. and the stories and the stories, the story that struck me, the one I could not bare to repeat without crying, was this:
At the end of his life my Uncle had Alzheimers, but his ability to sing and his remembrance of lyrics stayed present. My Uncle had been in a barbershop quartet for many years and had a great voice. One day, at a store, my cousin Tim said Uncle Bob started singing to the store clerk at the register. He sang I love you truly. And as he serenaded her, the woman started crying. “I have had the worst week,” she said to him.
I looked over at the Christmas tree on the alter several times during the celebration of Uncle Bob’s life. I thought perhaps the lights could represent all the lives he touched and if all of those lives somehow, in their own quiet way, could light up someone’s day, the planet might sparkle with goodness.
So from the niece who felt she knew ya Uncle Bob, you left the world a better place. An example for all of us to reach out to those less fortunate and the lonely or maybe just, as my cousin Drew said, stop for just one person today. One person who needs you or needs the bits of goodness that you can give.