Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Goodbye Uncle Bill

We buried my Uncle Bill yesterday, and words can’t express how sad I am about his passing. My dad comes from a very large family, so I have lots of aunts and uncles, but Uncle Bill was my favorite uncle. He spent a lot of time laughing. He used humor to relieve stress and dissolve anger. He always had some kind of corny joke to tell, and I always fell for them. He loved it when you teased him back, so our relationship was full of taunts and practical jokes. In fact, the last time I saw him we were cutting up on the back row of Miller Funeral Home just before my Uncle Raymond’s funeral last fall. Only he could make me laugh during a funeral.

He loved the guitar and spent his younger years playing in bands in local honky-tonks. My aunt Katherine tamed his wild ways and stood by him for 56 years, raising 4 great kids and a passel of grandkids. He called her “that old woman” and said it with such love that it was never an insult, just an affectionate nick name. He loved so many people that everyone knew him as “Uncle Bill”, even those who weren’t related to him. I think the whole population of his hometown turned out at the church for his visitation. Near the end of visitation a transformer blew outside the church, putting the whole church in darkness. I can’t help but think he had a hand in that. One last practical joke.

He was always doing a good deed for someone, never asking for payment, never seeking praise. Just doing what he thought was the right thing to do. He found religion somewhat late in life. His relationship with God began when he was doing volunteer mechanic work on a church bus, and a little boy invited him in for services. Eventually, his music playing moved from bars to barnyard bands. In his later years, he often played and sang in church, always singing the old hymns and always calling his selection of the day, “the preacher’s favorite” no matter what song it was. He often cried while he sang, a sign of his heartfelt faith. He burned many a gallon of gasoline driving to nursing homes to sing for old folks. He spent hundreds of hours fishing with buddies and kids. I never saw him angry, never heard him say a bad word about anyone and never heard him use bad language. He was a special man, and I will miss him.

We buried him on a hill in a small 250 year old church cemetery, overlooking rolling farmland and woods. I like to image that he’s strolling over rolling hills in heaven, laughing with family long gone before him and pulling a prank or two on those around him. “Hey, Peter! Have you ever seen a catfish? You have? Well, how was he holding the pole?” Goodbye Uncle Bill. I will miss you. We will ALL miss you.

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