death is a part of living…

as i reflect on the title of this blog, “Living is a Process,” i am reminded that death is a natural part of living.  i wish i could say that were not true.  especially today.

my sweet Uncle Wade Whitley has left this world and, while i know he’s gone to a better one, my heart aches tremendously.

i wanted this to be an “in memoriam,” but the truth is i don’t know much about the details of this man’s life.  he was, in fact, my great-uncle, husband of my grandmother’s sister, Mary.  as a child a knew him as one of our Memphis (Tennessee) relatives, the ones who had the pool.  we stayed there many times when my grandmother would go to visit.  he was a rock, a stronghold in our family, the man we all looked up to and admired.  besides my dad, there weren’t many of these for me to find.

i knew he was in the military, and that he was somewhat of a boy-scout extraordinaire.  my favorite memory was when he taught me to whistle by holding a blade of grass between two thumbs, and blowing are over it.   impressed everyone at camp that year.

in more recent years, and weeks, and days, i would come to learn the beautiful character of Uncle Wade.  his time spent on tours in Vietnam during that heinous war.  how he would spend a week at my dad’s house when they were children, helping my struggling grandmother, a single working mom, with house projects.  he became a surrogate father, of sorts, to my father, teaching him to be strong, be bold, and risk.

to me, he was the grandfather i never really had.  we didn’t see him much, only once a year or so, but he was always present, asking me about school, encouraging me to be a professor.   i’ll never forget the day i told him i was moving to Arizona…he hugged me close, and told me he was so excited for me, that my sis and i “had been through so much” and it was time for good things to happen.  it was so encouraging to know my struggles were not beyond his scope.

so, here’s to Uncle Wade…this man who, though i didn’t know much about what he liked to do or where he’d been, changed the lives around him with his love.

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