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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Uncle June

Last week as we drove westward through West Virginia, we arranged to stop and visit my Aunt Dink and Uncle June, my mom's 89-year-old brother. June (a nickname for the "Jr." suffix as he shared his father's name) lived alone with only a part-time housekeeper checking up on him, but my Aunt was in a nursing home, so we met at the home. We saw pictures of their 70th wedding anniversary party from a few months ago, and their great-grand-children, and showed them our pictures of Uganda. Uncle June was a marine who fought in the Pacific in WWII, and remained active in the VFW. He was part of that amazing generation of hardworking patriots, loyal, opinionated, pillar-of-community, church-going, brave, with a great sense of humor and an interest in the world. He spent a lot of time in his later years tracing the family genealogy, and even had a copy made for me to give me during the visit. When his marine grandson was posted to Africa and relayed stories of the school conditions, Uncle June mobilized the local school board and the VFW, got a truckload of books donated, boxed, and sent to Africa as a gesture of American good will.
When we stopped, Uncle June had a fresh bandage on his arm, sheepishly explaining that he had woken up in the night to go to the bathroom and thought he was only 50, forgetting those extra 40 years. He fell on the way to the bathroom and said he hit his wrist against the chair rail. Well, it turned out his fall was more significant than that for an elderly man on coumadin. A couple of days after we saw him he went to see his doctor because he just did not feel right, and by the time he came out of his CT scan he was rapidly deteriorating from intracranial bleeding. He was comatose by the time he was admitted, with no hope of recovery. My mom rushed to his bedside at the hospice where he was transferred. The doctor did not expect him to live more than a few hours, but he held on for over two days. He was one tough guy. He died yesterday afternoon.
I have so much respect for my many uncles (2 on my mom's side and 5 on my dad's) who fought in WWII. They were so young, and put up with so much hardship and horror and loss, then stoically returned and steadfastly worked to raise families. Until the 50th anniversary of the war, they rarely talked of it. The last visit to Uncle June's before this one, though, I remember him pulling out a Japanese sword from his basement that impressed my boys.
Only 1 of my mom's 4 siblings is now alive, and 5 of my dad's 14. They were both the youngest in large families, so this is a decade of many deaths. I'm thankful that God allowed us to stop and see this Uncle in what turned out to be the last week of his life, to give a good hug and goodbye not knowing it would be our last.


Debbie said...

What a precious gift of God's good timing. Thanks for sharing your uncle's story.

Laura said...

God is so good that He allowed you to go visit him before he passed away. I am sorry for you family's loss, he sounds like a wonderful Uncle!