Last week I said goodbye to my dear uncle. He was a man of science but also deep faith and my memories of him are full of joy and humor. As a kid, I thought of him as a rocket scientist, the man who taught me that we can travel to Mars. He taught me other lessons over my lifetime like:
- Packing the trunk (boot) of a car is like playing a game Tetris. With a little patience and spatial awareness, it WILL all fit in there.
- Organization is subjective. What might seem like chaos to those around you is a system that works.
- Never feel guilty about savoring good food. And remember that life is too short to skip dessert.
- Map reading is an art and an important life skill. Know that while some routes may be better or faster than others, there is no shortage of paths to your destination. Always trust your inner compass.
- Trying to recreate Laota’s Sour Cream Rice is a waste of time. No one knows her secret.
- Sometimes life’s rewards mean pushing boundaries and limitations. If you’re not tall enough to ride on that rollercoaster, stand on your tip toes.
During one of my last visits with him, I could tell that he was thinking deeply about what his last sage words of wisdom to me would be. These would be important words and he didn’t expect to see me again. He said “remember that there only three things that matter in life: family, faith, and friends. Nothing else matters.” Words of wisdom indeed. I cried, kissed him on the forehead and said “well, I’ll see you tomorrow then OK?” And we both laughed. He’d have another chance for his last words.
Toward the end I think that his perception of time became malleable, he was no longer constrained by the same space-time continuum in which we find ourselves. “The amount of time we spend here in this time and place is insignificant” he said, pinching his thumb and index finger together to demonstrate. “We are never gone. People are never gone, they’ve just moved on to the next place.” He’d clearly seen what lay beyond the horizon of time as we know it. He asked for his watch, with its thick leather band and metal clip on calendar, it was a tangible artifact that tethered him like a life raft to the time he was passing through. I’m grateful for the moments I got to spend with him on that life raft before it was time for him to let go.
“Now scoot” he said with a wink, giving me permission to let go as well.