Excuse me while I consider something. Last week-end/week I was up in Smithers for my Uncle Dave’s memorial. I didn’t know what to expect going up there, I am not exactly well versed in this type of pain or grief, most particularly in this family of mine. I was most shocked by how cool his memorial service was. (I am having a hard time finding the proper word for it — I would also say it was neat, humbling, surprising, hard, and anointed) Here’s why: I don’t think there is anything more honouring of someone’s life than watching or knowing what they’ve left behind. To say I learned many things about my Uncle Dave at his memorial would be an understatement to the highest degree — it’s a very real and powerful thing to be reminded of the very best parts about someone. It fascinates me that he lived for an entire lifetime before any of us kids came along. I found myself not wanting the speakers to stop talking about this dear man — there are so many things I don’t know. Neat because I now know this man was much more than an uncle and friend; humbling because the words spoken about him made me want to be that or have that in some parts of my own life; surprising because it wasn’t until we were gathered together that a sea of my own memories, memories that I had been desperate to hold in my hand but somehow were hard to grasp that week, came flooding over me as others shared about Dave; hard because as joy filled as I am knowing exactly where he is, it’s still okay to be sad that my life — our lives — are somehow a little less full now that he’s gone; and anointed because Jesus was truly in that place as evident in the faces of my cousins and aunt whose loss seems so unfair but whose hearts are carried by that faith that God knows exactly what he’s doing.
What will your legacy be? Will it be as staggering as my Uncle Dave’s, where even amidst broken hearts, there is abundant joy in that he touched our lives — making us laugh, teasing us with no remorse, caring about what we had to say, supportive with no reservation, and living with a faith that is to be admired. In my own life, I struggled with trusting Dave simply because every time I got back onto the snowmobile or quad while every instinct of my being was screaming DON’T DO IT, he’d find a way to go so fast, lose control, and dump me in the snow. Yet, he came to or umpired or kept the batting line up for as many balls games I had at Heritage Park as he could. I remember the day I told him I was going to pitch for the very first time (supportive with no reservation), he was so excited — I think he thought I was going to be the next ‘big thing’ in female fastball simply because they actually put me on the mound. I pitched the first inning, and every single batter hit of my first or second pitch. They got five runs in and I thought it wasn’t bad, at least they were crossing the plate. When I came off the field, Uncle Dave checked to see where I was in the batting order. He told me to follow him and I thought (supportive with no reservation) he was going to tell me I was a rockstar. Instead he said “Oh KATE, those pitches are embarrassing! What are you doing out there?” Considering I was 13, and had no formal pitching lessons, I thought I was doing pretty good! He then explained he wasn’t trying to hurt my feelings but that he felt bad that he didn’t show me his tricks before I went out on the field. Uncle Dave grabbed a ball and his glove and showed me for the next 15 minutes, and every other time I was sitting, how to pitch… drop balls, curveballs, whatever else he could come up with. And I proceeded to throw more strikes the rest of that game than I ever had in my shortlived pitching career, with Dave, my biggest (albeit, only) fan in the stands grinning the way we all remember it.
I think that’s what I loved most about him and what his legacy is for me — an unwavering commitment to the people in his life that made someone like me feel accepted, valued, and loved simply by his dedication to helping me or teasing me or being a friend however he could. Uncle Dave made me feel safe and the tragedy of death makes it hard to not beat myself up for not remembering that until now.
In the movie Shall We Dance, Susan Sarandon says this as she’s trying to qualify her understanding of marriage:
“We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet… I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things… all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness.”
Isolating everything from the part about marriage, those words are so powerful here. It’s so difficult, but last week made me want to be such a witness — so that those I am surrounded by don’t go unnoticed, that people are celebrated in this life for exactly who they are what what they bring to it. To not sometimes, but constantly be reminded of the best parts about them so that when they are gone, and our own lives are a little less complete, a little less full, their legacy is exactly where and what it should be — carried on through people who absolutely adored, admired, and loved every part about them. As already so-very-evident of my Uncle Dave. miss you.