Just recently, my Uncle Leslie passed away at the age of 58 from a heart failure/attack. The news about his death was as equally shocking as it was sudden. And though I didn't get to share words about him at his funeral, this blog will serve as my personal eulogy in his memory:
The question I most often get when friends and associates hear about the unfortunate passing of my Uncle, is "Were you close to him?" And though I don't know much about my Uncle, I reply "Yeah, I was." What I knew about my Uncle was just superficial information: he was one of 2 of my Dad's younger brothers, he was a lawyer, father to my cousin's and a husband to my aunt, lived in Alameda, etc. It wasn't until the funeral did I find out so much about him, that he ran the Oakland Marathon in the year I was born and ran well enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon, that he recently got scuba certified, climbed a 14,000 ft mountain and that he met my Aunt on a bike ride from Concord to Tahoe. He volunteered for the Eagle Scouts, through out and well after my cousin earned his badges, and he was actively involved in my cousin's sports including soccer, ultimate frisbee and cross country, often times timing Kaila's laps and giving what he thought (and what was I'm sure) helpful advice on how to improve her times. He was a world traveler who trekked on lands I still wish to visit and though he was a hard working a successful attorney, he took off more and more time off to be involved in his childrens life. This is just a short list of his accomplishments and loves, and all of this was new to me until right before I bowed 3 times to give my final respects before the casket was closed.
But I still considered him close to me, because I loved him and I knew he loved me the same. Maybe it was because of a connection due to our similarities: we're both the middle child of 3 brothers (though I have an older sister as well), we were both shy, quiet and reserved, and we both have a mysterious collection of freckles on our faces. Maybe it was just the typical Uncle/Nephew relationship. But I knew that every time I would see him during the occasional family function, I'd be happy to see him. He always made me laugh though I'm sure I made him laugh more by some of the ridiculous things I would be into during the different phases of my life. He would question why I would need a pager at the age of 15. My smart ass reply, I needed to be on call for my clients.
I always looked up to the great man that is my Uncle, and even though he isn't with us anymore, he will always inspire me to be the best person I can be... hopefully, someone with the same integrity as him.
PS: My Uncle wasn't the only person I learned more about that day. I learned how great of a writer my Dad is, from his beautiful eulogy. I learned more about the living conditions my Dad and my Uncles had to live with. Them 3, along with 6 of their cousin's, all grew up together and became best of friends. They call themselves, the "9 cousins". Them and their families all lived in one place, several of them sharing the same room. They couldn't afford toys, so they were each other's toys, playing games with each other and forging what would be life long friendships. They could barely afford the food that fueled their energy. Which puts into perspective where they are now: a lawyer, a VP for a commercial insurance company, and a scientist at Genentec to name a few. They came from having nothing to the luxuries of families, houses, and traveling. It makes you appreciate what you have, and that to be successful, you have to make smart choices, work hard and make sacrifices. The lifestyle that my parents and friends enjoy now, was not given to them by any means. They made sure to drill that into my head and taught me that my luxuries, even at an early age, had to be earned.