(Photo Details: Uncle Jim at his 80th birthday party, July 2015)
Wow, what a year. And not in a good way.
It’s hard for me to not write what is going on in my life, and I haven’t really felt like I could write what’s been going on in my life this year. So I just haven’t written much. As many of you have noticed.
But my Uncle Jim died just before Thanksgiving, and now I feel like I can write about it. He was diagnosed with terminal bladder cancer in early 2014. The doctor told him he had about a year to live. Earlier this year—at about the one-year mark--he told his oncologist that he was throwing himself an 80th birthday party in July. She said, “You should probably have the party before July.”
Well he showed her. Sort of. Sixty or so guests came from all over the country—and even from Japan, where he concluded his 40-year career with the Associated Press as the Tokyo bureau chief--to help him celebrate. Three days before the festivities he had a heart attack and was only released from the hospital three hours before the party. It was a huge success though. My dad emceed the festivities with just the right amount of humor and ribbing of his big brother. Friends toasted Jim with warm words of appreciation for his friendship.
There was more of the same at his memorial in December, but how much nicer it was in July when Jim got a chance to hear how much people loved him.
Earlier this year, as I did write a little bit about, one of my best friends since the fourth grade suffered the most devastating loss I can think of, her daughter’s suicide.
So like I said, not such a great year here at Casa Retired Syd.
And yet I’m grateful. For a couple of things.
First for being retired. I had time. Time to be there for my friend and my uncle in the way that I wanted to be. Not on weekends, or between quarter-ends, or squeezed in around tax season. I could be there tomorrow, or in an hour for that matter. I didn’t have to ask a boss, or shuffle meetings, or let work slide.
My uncle used to say, “Never resist a generous act.” My family was just talking about this at Christmas. I thought he meant that if you have the opportunity to help someone, never waste that opportunity. But another family member thought it meant, if someone is generous toward you, you should openly accept that generosity. And I think we’re both right.
Because this year, the best part of it was when my friend and my uncle accepted my offers of help. I needed to do something, and it helped me to feel like I was helping, even if I really wasn’t.
The night that CeCe died, I told my friend Judy I wanted to come up next day. She said, “Be here at 10.” We muddled through the next few days, the blind leading the blind. We were all helpless really. But we clung to one another, and that was the most generous thing Judy could do for me, let me cling to her. That was a generous act, making me feel like I was helping.
When my uncle asked me to join him at doctor’s appointments, or to help him plan his 80th birthday party, those were generous acts, allowing me to be there for him in some way.
This year I learned that it’s not just generous to give, but generous to let people give to you. That is also a gift, and the other thing I'm grateful for this year.
Best wishes for a happy, healthy, and love-filled new year!
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