There’s nothing like death to give you a fresh perspective on life. And I’m recently returned from a funeral.
Everyone there seemed to know the departed in slightly different ways and even by slightly different names. Some called him by his last name, Bellamy. Others used a nickname, Billy. To me, he was Uncle Monroe, his given name and the one my mother always used.
To some, he was a co-worker. To others, a friend, a fellow church member or a relative. Some knew him on the nightshift in work clothes. Others recognized him in dapper duds at formal dinners. He’d lived for decades in an urban metropolis but his roots were rural and he never forgot.
He was a fixture in my life. My mother’s last sibling and slightly younger brother born on Christmas Eve, he was tall and well-dressed whether in plain clothes or Sunday go-to-meeting suits. Mustachioed and smelling of Aramis cologne, he’d suddenly appear in our driveway for a visit, fresh off the road from his home in Atlanta slightly more than 100 miles away.
He always drove a truck, stick shift until the knee began to bother him, with a camper top and cooler in the back full of drinks. The truck changed by the years, but the greeting was always the same, “Hey, baby!”
My uncle never talked much about himself to me. I knew his son graciously shared him with the nieces. I vaguely knew that he’d served in the Armed Forces, worked at the post office. He was a Baptist when everyone else in the family went to African Methodist Episcopal Church. He didn’t push church. When I worked in Atlanta, he invited me just once that I remember: to hear a singer with a voice fit for the Met who had grown up in the congregation.
At the funeral, I got the full resume. He’d served in the Navy. He was married to the same woman for 68 years. He worked for the post office, 36 years. He was an honorable “Deacon Emeritus” who had mentored several deacons who would mature to become chairmen of the board. He himself had devoted many years to bereavement ministry.
The details of my uncle’s life were long a mystery but his consistent, unmistakable love for me was very clear. I sat at his funeral remembering how he drove his truck from Atlanta to Raleigh nearly 30 years ago to give me away at my wedding. It would have been much easier to buy a plane ticket. The drive was a gesture of love, again. Mom needed a ride, and they enjoyed each other’s company.
I know that I’m partial, but my Uncle really was something special. Most of us Christians are the Titus 1:16 variety: we claim to know God but our actions deny him. We talk too much and live too little. We don’t cultivate real relationships. We’re plastic, chameleons who are so busy doing “church” that we’ve forgotten we are Christ’s ambassadors.
My friend, God is love. God so loved the world that He gave us His Son at great sacrifice for our good.
I know my uncle loved God, because he loved me all my life.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35
4 thoughts on “Love: Show More Than Tell”
Thanks for sharing such a lovely testament to Uncle Monroe’s life. Clearly the world was a better place because he lived – and, through you and others, continues to live. How touching that he drove up to be with you at your wedding. He sounds so humble – very giving with his service and long marriage, but not one to toot his horn. I feel a bit sad that I wasn’t lucky enough to have met him – or your lovely Mom. Thanks for keeping his memory alive and may he rest in peace.
Thanks so much for your kind words, Dilip!
Lisa, this was an absolute wonderful tribute of your uncle. Sharing his life and legacy in the way that you have is how his memory will continue to live on. It also allowed me to take the time to remember just how fleeting life is and the importance of cherishing our relationships. Often times, the people who have the least to utter about themselves, are the ones whose life reflects unparalleled, voluminous and priceless traits that are innate, as exemplified by your uncle–sacrificial love and humility. May the love of Jesus comfort you during this time and may the memories you have of your uncle make you smile.
My thanks to you for your touching comments. The memories do make me smile!