Yesterday, July 18th, was the nine year anniversary of my uncle’s death. I know that when I say uncle, some people might dismiss the importance of my uncle in my life. He was more than the uncle you see once a year at Christmas time who always buys you ugly sweaters at least three sizes too big. He and my grandmother lived one town away, and since he didn’t have any children of his own, he doted on my sisters and I.
He was a teacher at the elementary school my sisters and I went to and everyone who had him as a teacher agreed he was one of the nicest and most caring people they had ever met. He tried his best to help every student that passed through his classroom, the smart ones and especially the ones who needed more assistance.
He was diagnosed with cancer around the time I was in the 6th grade and battled it bravely. Never once did he let if affect who he was or his mission to help his students. He was compassionate about helping the less fortunate have a chance to succeed in life. My grandma still tells me stories of his old students approaching her to tell her how much of an impact he made in their lives.
He didn’t want people to focus on the fact that he was sick, that he might not make it, and he never wanted anyone to pity him. He wanted to keep living as normally as his disease allowed. Up until he was hospitalized, he went to my grandmother’s for dinner every night, tried to be at important events for my sisters and I, and always kept fighting.
One of the last times I saw him before he died, we wanted to cheer him up and offer some light in his hospital room. I didn’t want to get him a “get well” balloon, because I didn’t him to think we felt sorry for him. I wanted him to stay as cheerful as possible. We got him a bright yellow smiley face balloon instead. The last time I saw him alive, when he was obviously very sick, I begged my mother to let me keep his dog. See, he didn’t have a wife or kids, but he had his dog. He loved his dog, Ginger, and I couldn’t stand the thought of some strangers getting her after he died. My mother agreed.
Nine years later, I still keep that smiley faced balloon in my desk drawer and Ginger has been the best dog I have ever had. Every time I remember him, or see Ginger, I try to think about his life and how he lead it. Despite being handed a death sentence, he choose to be optimistic . He did not let it embitter him and taint his view on the world or life. Instead, he remained one of the strongest people I know. So I want to honor him by being as kind and generous as he was, eternally willing to help the underdogs of the world to reach at least one step higher.
In loving memory Uncle Randy. Born January 31 1955-July 18 2005.