My heart is beyond full today. It is overflowing. Life is made up of so many shades of the basic emotions — happiness, sadness, peace, sorrow, satisfaction, etc., can all fill our hearts in a way that makes us almost not know what it is that we are actually feeling. And that is how I feel.
Uncle Vernon died this morning. He quietly slipped away in the early morning darkness, and left his pain wracked body lying still and at rest. I got the call just before we left to pick up “our” three kids to go over to our Church Retreat. I really didn’t have time to think about his passing until on the way home. The kids were tired, quiet in the back, and suddenly Muffie piped up and said, “Miss Mary Ann, can we come to your house on Thursday night?”
“I don’t know, Muffie,” I said, “but probably not. My uncle died this morning, and his funeral is on Thusday.” The words hung in the air, thick and heavy. “He was such a good Uncle,” I said, now crying. And then I told them this story.
I remember one time when Uncle Vernon and Aunt Freda come to visit us, and I was in the throes of young adolescence (‘Addled Essence” would be more accurate, to be sure!). My hair was a mess, and my dress was dirty. I had been trying to clean up the kitchen, and I was talking to Uncle Vernon. We stored the frying pan in the oven at our house (Still do in my house, to this day!) But I had put a cake in to bake just a little before, and it was almost done. I was talking animatedly to Uncle Vernon, who always engaged me in conversation, and without thinking, I grabbed the frying pan and put it into the oven without looking, right on top of that almost baked cake. I felt an unfamiliar thud and then I looked in disbelief at the flattened and scrunched cake.
My Sweet Mama was not happy with me for ruining the cake. We had plans to use it for a dessert the next day that is similar to Cherry Delight. The only difference is that you use the baked cake as the bottom layer instead of a graham cracker crust. It was all the rage back then, and I am pretty sure that Mama was expecting company for lunch the next day. I don’t know what she must have thought, but it WAS a result of not paying attention. (Something I was, unfortunately, quite famous for. Still am.) Uncle Vernon and Aunt Freda were the current company, though and so she didn’t scold me too hard. But I felt awful, and I cried. We tried hard to repair and salvage, but it was still rather sorry looking.
Later, I was back in the kitchen, and Uncle Vernon came up to me and said, “Mary Ann. Come here.” He took me to where our living room and dining room met, where there was a large, full length mirror, and positioned me in front of it. “Take a good look,” he said. I did. Didn’t particularly like what I saw, either. “What do you see?” he asked.
It really wasn’t much to look at. My hair was stringy, falling down over my face. I reached up and tried to tuck it behind my ear. My dress, made of the shirtwaist pattern of the day, was an aqua gingham, rumpled and dirty. I was dreadfully self conscious. “Um, I don’t know. Me?”
“Now, Mary Ann,” he instructed kindly, “I want you to straighten your shoulders. Don’t slump. And I want you to smile. You can smile.” He took my hands gently in his and crossed them over my tummy. “Hold your hands just so. Like that. Now look at you. I see a beautiful young lady,” he said with energy, confidence and enthusiasm. “Look at you! You really are a wonderful young lady. You are intelligent and you will go far.”
I looked in the mirror. I smiled at the girl in the mirror and she smiled back. I felt a surge of confidence like I had never known before. I didn’t feel beautiful, but I felt capable. I knew I wasn’t gorgeous. I certainly didn’t have a reason to be vain, but I really did feel like I could meet the challenges of life, and that I had something to offer this old world, and it felt really, really good.
I have always blessed him for that day. It was pivotal in my life. It was many, many years before I understood how “Uncle Vernon” that was. He lived and breathed encouragement. He looked for something to praise, something to give hope, something to affirm.
We are going to miss him. We are so glad for his triumph, so sad for our loss. A mix of emotions, again. This old world keeps on turning, ever bringing us closer and closer to Home. I wonder how emotions will play into our existence in Heaven. I’m sure they will be there, and will be a part of that glorious experience But to think of emotions without the contradictions of our limited knowledge, without the distractions of our Humanity — now that will be Heaven!
Rest in peace, Uncle Vernon. We’ll see you in the morning.
Oh, and tell my Precious Daddy that I will always love him and will miss him until my last breath.