A long summer of good byes.
Before summer had a chance to begin, it seemed I couldn't get out of the "good bye" mode I had been in after losing both my step-grandparents through the winter and spring. After a long illness, we said good bye to the first cousin on my dad's side to pass from this life to the next. It's those times when you start to feel that time is passing too fast and that the people that you have carried along with you your whole life......aren't going to be there forever. Here are my two siblings and a few of my first cousins gathered at my cousin Jim's memorial service. Bonus points if you can identify who my sister and brother are above. If there was any good to come from it, I had the chance to see my dear cousin who grew up in North Carolina, for the first time since my grandfather's funeral in 1995.
In late July the last of my grandmother's siblings passed away. He was 82. He'd been pastor of the same church in Hammond for as long as I had been alive and had just retired the year before. That seems crazy. My only regret here is that in all my working trips to Hammond I never stopped by to see him. It had probably been 20 years. And there was his name on the church's sign by the road: Pastor. Only a few blocks from the main route I took in and out of the city. We called him Bugsy. I always assumed it had something to do with the famous outlaw. So, we asked several of the family why "Uncle Bugs"? His wife said that my grandmother (centered above) said that he had bug eyes and she called him that since they were little. Uncle Bugs is on the left above. Seems to me, the outlaw story is more complimentary. My dad looks sooooo much like Uncle Bugs that some distant family, and particularly the parishioners, looked as though they had seen a ghost as my dad made his way to the front of the church. And Bugs' daughter even gasped, and said, oh does he look like dad.
As I sat in the little old suburban church on Hammond's south side, in a diverse congregation Martin Luther King would be proud of, I got a bit overwhelmed at how they loved this guy. Never preached to throngs, never broadcast across the airways.....just kept with the same folks for generations. Because he loved people. And they loved him back. Well done, good and faithful servant.
About August I got word that my cousin, much more like a little brother to me, was investigating a job in Hawaii....as if Florida wasn't far enough away. The kid grew up surrounded by cornfields and hay, went to Ball State for marine biology, became a rock star in the aquarium world, and wrote his ticket to paradise. Dang if I won't miss him......that's a whole lot of wet stuff between us man! So, we cousins gathered again in August and gave him a proper send off. Another good bye. Don't we look like a motley bunch. He's in the shades.
It was a long summer of good byes. Take a good look around, slow down.....before you know it everything changes.