Our family -- and in this case, I mean Rick's family, though by now I consider them mine as well -- has gone through some significant losses this summer. This past weekend we went to Minnesota to say farewell to Rick's uncle Gene and to celebrate his life.
I didn't know Gene as well as some of the family -- they lived farther away and by the time I came into the picture, he was beginning to become more frail. I didn't have the opportunity to know the Gene that Rick and his brothers knew. (That's Gene below with his wife, Beth, and his daughter, son-in-law and granddaughters.)
Until this weekend.
Rick was speaking on behalf of the family at the celebration, and over the past few weeks in preparation, he has shared with me many stories and the impact this man had on him. During the ceremonies, and after, as we shared memories, I learned even more.
Gene, who was married to Rick's Aunt Beth, was the first person not from Toledo the brothers had ever known. He was a "foreigner" (being from St. Louis) with new ideas and ways of thinking, and he expanded their universes in many ways.
But he was more than that. He was an astounding human being who (with Beth) adopted three children -- an adolescent and two infants. He provided a bone marrow transplant for his sister. He taught skiing to those with disabilities and he was an avid sailor who raced often. He was active in his church and his community. His life was rich and full and the fact that the church was so full was testament to how much he was loved.
And, the photo below shows -- without words -- how much he loved his granddaughters!
Times like this bring out so many emotions. At one point I said, "I wish Gene and Bob were here to see us all together having such a good time." (For you see, we are a fun group and between tears there was a lot of laughter this weekend, as there should be.) We lost Rick's uncle Bob in May.
And, when I saw the family photo on display at the funeral home, I thought, "Three are missing. Gene. Bob. Gene's daughter Andrea, whom we lost a year and a half ago."
But there are new faces in the picture yet to be taken. Gene has granddaughters now, and his daughter Sarah is a splendid mom who will not let them forget their family legacy.
And Bob has a wonderful son-in-law in Brian and grandchildren who came along after that family photo was taken.
The photo is representative of a "living" experience. We live. We step into the photo. Others move into the picture and one day will take our places. But if we do our jobs right, everyone will remember who was there in the first place.
And there are new experiences to be had. I thought it was no accident that after trying a long while, the fact that Sarah's youngest daughter finally could ride her two-wheeler for the first time unassisted.
Her dad said that unlike her older sister, she had been having a tough time getting it right without the trainers. As we sat on the deck, she rode on the grass below -- or tried, falling or stumbling then getting up and doing it again and again until she flew around in a circle.
She wasn't really unassisted. I am firmly convinced that an angel named Gene was wrapping his wings about her, guiding her gently, helping her along the way until she could fly.
Ride on, little one. Rick said the nieces and nephews stand on your grandpa's shoulders. One days, they'll stand on yours, your sister's and your cousin's.
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