July 21, 2010 marks the one-year anniversary of my Uncle Ted’s death. I loved him and he loved me – of that I am certain. Ted was my uncle by marriage but he was much more than that. He was my friend; my confidant; my role model.
Uncle Ted and Aunt Sha shared a true love story – and she followed him in death less than two months later. It was always hard to imagine what life for one would be without the other, so I guess God’s blessing was that they didn’t spend much time apart. I like to think that Uncle Ted was just getting things ready for Aunt Sha’s arrival – making certain things were ‘just so’ – everything to her liking. That was what he did for her here on earth – why not in heaven, too?
When his pastor eulogized him, I was especially touched when he said, “Ted loved his Church”. Those words struck a chord in me because it was such a simple statement but so true. He did love his Church – he loved each of the members. I was always pleased and proud to worship with him at First Baptist Church in Benton, Kentucky. And he witnessed to me in so many ways: he showed me that a real man does not need to be ashamed to profess his love for Jesus. We prayed together, we celebrated life’s joys together and he comforted me in times of despair. He always listened to me and took care to offer encouragement or counsel as needed. He NEVER questioned God’s plan for us and accepted each day as a gift from God to be cherished. I’m learning to do the same. I often used to pray “Oh, God this time let’s try it my way!” but Uncle Ted taught me the folly and vanity of that prayer. Now I pray that the Holy Spirit will give me the strength to accept life’s challenges and I’m learning to praise God for each day.
I’m Catholic and Uncle Ted was a devout Southern Baptist. It didn’t matter. We looked for the commonalities and didn’t focus on the things that were divisive. My Catholic upbringing was very different from Uncle Ted’s Southern Baptist tradition but we rarely disagreed on faith. I learned so much from him and I think I taught him some things, too. My Church believes that we are saved by Baptism and we believe in the Trinity, the Sacred Scripture and life-everlasting, as does his. I know that most of the ritual in my Church is non-essential, but it was the way I was raised and I find comfort in those traditions. Uncle Ted and I understood that the fact that we are both Christian was the most important thing. I will always treasure the times that I sat next to him in the Church that he loved so dearly. And I am proud too that he joined me on occasion at my Church. Uncle Ted and I both knew that God is neither Catholic nor Baptist. God’s ways are not man’s ways.
I still miss him everyday. I miss his advice and his sense of humor. I miss the sound of his voice. And I have to admit that there are times when I still talk to him (in my head). Uncle Ted knew more about my kids; my job; my life than my own parents. Every so often he would call just to check in and I was always better after our conversations. If an e-mail that I sent or phone message that I left sounded disconcerting, he would call immediately. And I know that he was proud of me and the life that Debbie and I have built. I believe he loved our kids as much as his own grandchildren. Our trips to Kentucky will always be some of the best memories we share as a family.
Uncle Ted witnessed to my family and me in everything that he did. I will always think of him with these words attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.”