It is with great sadness that I share a little about my Uncle Dwayne, who passed on July 18th this year from pancreatic cancer. I can hardly believe it, even after attending his funeral, because he was only diagnosed on May 29th, the day Ben and I moved from Los Angeles and headed north for Bend. I found out late in the evening on the 29th when we arrived at my parent’s house (we were staying there for a week before moving to Bend). I was in utter shock and disbelief when my mom told me. You see, my uncle was only 61 years old, and of all my relatives, he was one who was in the best shape. He canoed almost every morning at dawn on Whiskeytown Lake, and he was thin and ate healthy, because my aunt has a background in nutrition. Both of them are shining examples of how to age gracefully and live a healthy lifestyle, and I especially admired Dwayne for getting up so early in the morning to pursue his passion.
Dwayne was truly a man of God. He was a good father, husband, son, and uncle. I never heard Dwayne raise his voice…he was truly one of the gentlest men I’ve ever met, yet under the gentleness was a solid rock of faith and conviction which motivated him to be a good man. He was an architect who owned his own business for over 30 years, and he built the home that he and my aunt raised my cousins in. It sits on the top of a hill in Old Shasta overlooking Mt. Lassen. Growing up, my family would go there almost every summer for about 5 days, and those days were ones I looked forward to the most every year. My parents’ friends had children who were younger than me, and on my dad’s side, my cousins were a lot older than me, so I always looked forward to the trip, because my cousins, Katie and Amber, are one year younger and one year older than me, respectively. And my cousin, Jeff, is my sister’s age, so it was always nice for our parents that their kids were the same age and could relate to each other. Despite the distance, I always considered my cousins to be some of my best friends, and though it’s hard to stay in touch because of the distance, I am so grateful that we have.
Last month, just two weeks after my uncle’s diagnosis, my cousin, Jeff, got married to his beautiful wife, Michelle. My uncle was determined that no matter what, he would be there at his son’s wedding. My parents helped my aunt to get him there, and we are so very glad that he had such a beautiful time. That was the last time I saw my uncle, and I’m grateful that my last memories of him are joyful. They were bittersweet, but joyful nonetheless.
The one thing that struck me through all of this, was that my uncle never complained. He never asked, Why me? He remained strong and kind to the end. My cousin Katie told me in his last days how he was just as sweet as ever. I hope that I have that kind of courage when my time comes.
And so, I pray for healing for my aunt and my three cousins, because I am confident that Dwayne is fine. He fought the good fight and is receiving his eternal reward, but the hole he leaves behind in all our hearts, is one that will take time to heal. And I’m sure there will always be a hole, because when you love someone that’s just how it is. I only hope that my family knows I am there for them, and I am so grateful to have had Dwayne as my uncle. I am uniquely blessed to have had so many strong, positive male role models in my life. My dad and I are so close, and it is because of that closeness that my empathy is so great for Dwayne’s children. And it is because I have such a good, loving husband, that my empathy is so great for my aunt. Tomorrow would have been their 38th wedding anniversary and Dwayne’s 62nd birthday, and so I wish them both a happy anniversary and birthday, because I don’t think relationships end in death, not ones that are that strong and that beautiful.
Thank you, Dwayne, for always making your home a place I wanted to be. I love you and I will miss you.