Happy Birthday, Uncle Richard. This is your first one in Heaven. We know you are celebrating with Grandma and Grandpa! We miss you so much here on Earth. You are loved!
I think back to this day last year. It was the first Saturday in April, which is always a blood drive day, I kept telling Al to remind me to call Uncle Richard, to tell him Happy Birthday, before we went out to dinner with our friends Casey and Beth. I had such a wonderful 20-minute conversation with him, and I could hear his smile in his voice. I was so thrilled to have remembered to take the time to do that. Little did I know what would happen next.
My Uncle was a life-long bachelor, never married, no kids. He went to Vanderbilt. He was a flight attendant for National Airlines, and then they merged with PanAm. He lived 15 minutes from my grandparents for decades. He loved history, movies, food, and laughter.
He selflessly took care of Grandma Grace and moved her in with him from 2010 until she died peacefully in July 2013.
He always called me his favorite niece. I always laughed, since I was his only niece.
We worried about him for several years, but he persevered through happy times and challenging times.
I called him on Saturday. On Tuesday, the world as my family knew it came crashing down. He’d been in a car accident, four blocks from his house. We found out later he’d suffered a massive stroke. My parents, bless them both, literally dropped everything here in Virginia and got to Miami as fast as possible. My mom, Richard’s kid sister, took charge, and my dad bent over backwards. I stayed put, checking on their house and getting their mail.
Everyone in Florida were wonderful. The church community gathered together and offered everything, especially prayer.
After several weeks, the difficult decision was made to bring in hospice care. He’d fought hard, but his body was failing. He was coherent until the very end, saluting my dad, as he always had since my dad had served in the Coast Guard for more than 23 years. One of them brought the wedding photo of us to his room, and he knew who I was. I was able to call one last time. He wasn’t able to speak or respond to me, but my mom said he was nodding and recognized my voice. I told him I loved him, and then I couldn’t talk any more. I’d said my piece. I felt at peace.
He died peacefully on April 25th. It was the hardest four weeks my parents had been through, and many more months of challenges would follow, making sure his estate was taken care of. Months later, my mom gave an incredible presentation at a church fellowship dinner, dubbed “The Miracles in Miami,” where so many amazing God Things happened during this horrible, tragic, trying time.
Here’s to you, Uncle Richard, from your favorite niece.
Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂