Goodbye Uncle Bill

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Photo courtesy of kevandem

My Uncle Bill passed away yesterday afternoon after a lengthy battle with lung cancer. Uncle Bill was a person that always reminded me of an old photograph where somber looking black and white weather beaten farmers are leaning on a tractor while kids play in the background. He was given a difficult life but it never seemed to get him down.

Uncle Bill married my Aunt Penny years ago. Shortly afterward my Aunt was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy multiple sclerosis. They had one son, my cousin Billy, who also has M.D. M.S. as well as a variety of other medical issues.

So the part of my life that I knew Uncle Bill, I knew him as a man who was faithfully taking care of a very sick wife and son. I remember visiting him in a very literal shack in Ohio. I was a kid, so I didn't quite realize how poor they were, but the floors were sloped and the roof leaked. I think the house was held together by the linoleum on the floor more than the wood underneath. Uncle Bill had a garden out back where he grew a pretty big chunk of the food that they ate. He lived next to some horses. That was were I learned about electric fences and how not to touch them. He fixed tractors and lawn mowers for a living. Most of the support that they got came from grants from the National M.D. M.S. Society. There were a lot of cigarettes, beer and good ole boys around Uncle Bill.

My Aunt Penny was always sick when I knew her. She had trouble walking and eventually wasn't able to walk. She would always do her very best to be a gracious hostess though. My dad would go on and on about her "Dishwater Potatoes". They were good, but I think mostly he was trying to encourage his sister. Eventually my aunt had trouble swallowing and then trouble breathing. She passed away one afternoon from choking on some cashews in a nursing home. She just became too weak to clear her throat.

With all of these people passing away in my family it causes me to reflect a lot on what was important to these people in their hardest moments. My Uncle Larry asked us to pray for "patience and courage" as he was approaching his death. Reflecting on that will be a lifetime's work. My Aunt Nancy was always generous and looking for a way to have fun. Uncle Bill stood by his wife and son for years with a great attitude through a deteriorating illness and no shortage of poverty. Uncle Bill was a pretty straightforward simple person, but sure made a great role model.

Death sure puts life in perspective. I'm going to bump up "learn to play the fiddle" on my list and go make a really good cup of coffee. So long Uncle Bill. I hope I never have to be as strong as you were.

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Uncle Bill always made a point to be at every family event! He went to all the wedding, my college graduation, and visited Aunt Penny's grave a lot with Charlene.

Posted by: Andrea and Nate at January 28, 2008 6:20 PM

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