Yesterday, my family paid tribute to my Uncle Carl, who passed away a week ago after a long battle with a myriad of health concerns. I'm honestly not quite sure if the reality of his death has completely sunk in for me yet. There were so many close-calls over the years, but Carl always defied the odds and pulled through. It's weird that I have to keep reminding myself that he's really gone this time, not just in the hospital again.
The things that have given me the most solace are the stories from my aunt and mom who were with him in his final days. Often, they told me, he would look up and to the right with great focus. My sister said that at one point, he was smiling and waving, trying to reach out to something. Although he was unable to speak, I was told that he nodded with conviction when they asked him if he saw my grandma and grandpa. It gives me peace to think that they were there waiting for him when he died. Also, the very last thing he did before losing consciousness for the final time was renew his vows, something he and my aunt have wanted to do for quite some time.
I was privileged to be able to read a love letter my uncle wrote to my aunt several years ago during which he recalled their first date, their courtship, and his desire to spend the rest of his life with her. I had to practice it several times at home so I could stay composed at the funeral because it was pretty emotional for me to speak his words. He didn't just love but cherished my Aunt Patti, and it was an honor to be able to share that with all who came to pay respects.
The one good thing that comes from funerals is that my family, who is scattered across the country in New Jersey, Texas, Arizona, and Colorado all come "home" to Illinois. It's been nice to spend time with cousins I've seen only a handful of times in my life, and I know my uncle has been smiling down to see us all together like this. And he'll be even more excited to see us all cheering for Da Bears together tonight.
We took advantage of pretty Christmas decor at the ski lodge where we had our luncheon and had a little family photo shoot. Unfortunately, I didn't think to do this until some of the group had already left, but at least we captured the photos below.
I won't bore you with tags of all these people, but we're a pretty cute bunch if I do say so myself.