445. Rejoice! [A final word from Dan Uncle]

Yes, that's me - I'm hanging out with Candy Dog

Yes, that’s me – I’m hanging out with Candy Dog

This is a very difficult post to write. But writing this is the only thing that’s going to make me feel better so here goes. “Uncle” Dan went home to be with the Lord on Thanksgiving Day – last Thursday, November 28.

Although we are not related by blood, we have been family for as long as I can remember. When Mom and Dad went on a long trip when I was 5 they left the three of us in the care of Aunty K and Dan Uncle for 2 weeks. Poor Boo Boo had to go through “dog desensitization training” so she would get used to Candy, the family pooch. Aunty K let me play with the egg beater in her kitchen, covered my eyes during all the scary parts in Star Wars and Dan Uncle would crack the door open at night to tell Boo Boo and me to stop whispering under the covers and go to sleep.

When all of us grew up and I said I wanted to go to Africa I met with the Elders at my chapel. It was hysterical – Daddy sat in the corner pretending not to see me so as not to muddy the waters with his paternal concern. Dan Uncle sat there, smiling tight-lipped and shaking his head – wearing the same exact expression he had three years earlier when he had come to sit with Mommy in the waiting room when Daddy went to the doctor one day and was carted straight to the Hospital for a triple bypass. (Side note: he tried to get out of it, but they wouldn’t let him. True story.)

When I got sick I was desperately looking for safe places to go in The Valley and I dreamed I was in Aunty K’s kitchen again and she had prepared a wonderful Indian repast, as is her custom. I even dreamed about packing leftovers in her tiffin carrier – I know, this level of detail is a little weird, but what can I say – I have good memories of her cooking.

When I was just starting to wake up my parents would play me the video KAR had made with friends from the chapel sitting down in front of the computer and sending me messages of love and encouragement. When it was Dan Uncle and Aunty K’s turn Dan Uncle very solemnly and ceremoniously extended his right hand and mimed the motions of our “secret upside-down U” handshake. We started doing this handshake as soon as I had the requisite motor skills as a child, although we took a break when I was extremely cane dependent and could not risk switching Leo to my left hand. Daddy wrote in an update that when I saw Dan Uncle do the handshake I smiled for the first time.

My friends used to carry my wheelchair and me upstairs before I could walk. As soon as I could I brought my walker along and once I was in the upstairs foyer Mommy unfolded it and I shuffled in to the auditorium. The first week that happened Dan Uncle gave the “Welcome” at the beginning of the Lord’s Supper. At the end he said, Ning walked in today, and his voice broke because he was happy. 3 years later I sent Willow the rollator and Jack the transport chair to his house to help him get around as he did chemo, etc.

325.  Make them carry you!

325. Make them carry you!

We were in Oregon, waiting for Dr. Dogan at OHSU when Daddy got the email that Dan Uncle’s surgery had been stopped bc once they got in there and looked around they saw that his cancer had advanced to the point that operating was inadvisable. That was not what we wanted to hear.

I was at Boo Boo’s house when Dan Uncle and Aunty K moved to the West Coast to continue treatment near their daughter’s house, and to welcome the arrival of their new grandson.   I have been heartbroken not to see him again, but I am also selfishly relieved to have been spared the goodbye. I’m not great at goodbyes now. But this way I will always remember him as he was.

I always enjoyed playing the piano when he was the song-leader. Dan Uncle never failed to come to me afterwards and encourage me in my music. So this song is for him. It’s Silent Night, Away in a Manger, and Holy Holy Holy. I chose Silent Night bc it’s fitting for the quiet nights we waited and prayed for the S family, knowing that D Uncle would be going home soon. Away in a Manger is a perennial Nursery Class favorite, and I always think of sweet little babies when I hear it. I’m ending with Holy, Holy, Holy bc it has always signified strength to me.

I’ve been practicing for a week – but this attempt at playing the piano has shown that although I’m much stronger, stress and sadness still impact me heavily. I’ve been losing sleep and my back and hip are very grumpy indeed. As I played (somewhat desperately) this morning you can hear my brain flopping around as I remember c’mon – strong core! And I resisted the temptation to rest my back against the chair bc I already have enough trouble reaching all the keys when not seated on a piano bench. I ended up supine for 5 minute breaks between takes, and then abandoned it altogether for the Ceragem bed. This was as good as it’s going to get, I figured, and I needed to cut my losses before things got any worse. I want to look really healthy bc CMD is coming back on Wednesday, and I need to be ready for Christmas Tea on Saturday. The S family will be flying here this week so I’m going to get the sad out of my system and Rejoice! per Dan Uncle’s instructions.

The day the email went out saying that the biopsy results showed cancer I was terribly sad. I emailed Dan Uncle right away, and he shot back this response:

Ning,

In my late twenties I had thyroid cancer: it was caught on time and taken out.

The Lord has provided me forty years after that, and I am glad.

We ought to be glad for our HOPE…

Rejoice!

Dan Uncle.

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10 thoughts on “445. Rejoice! [A final word from Dan Uncle]

  1. Thank you, Ning, for writing this! It makes me very weepy but it is such a true little account of such a wonderful person. I also remember how gracious he was as a song leader when I played- blaming himself if anything went amiss when really it was my fault 🙂 That email is very encouraging and very much his voice. ❤

  2. I love this so much. Thank you for sharing these memories… such a wonderful, encouraging, loving man, we will all miss him so much. I loved to watch him sing, as his face and shoulders moved with conviction… as they did when he laughed! 🙂

  3. So sad to hear about “uncle Dan”. We stayed with him and Kala many times in Silver Springs. We have been praying for them and hadn’t heard how bad he really was. He was truly a gem!

  4. Love this, Ning. What a beautiful medley and collage of memories. I like how you chose “Holy, Holy, Holy,” not only for the reason you chose it, but also because it is a hymn I distinctly remember him giving out at the Lord’s Supper many times – as well as the corresponding verses from Scripture. Uncle Dan had a distinct way of really enunciating the words “holy, holy, holy” – I can still hear it in my head! As well as his hearty laugh, as many others have mentioned. I also think back to all the fun times we had in their basement for youth group. One Bible game in particular, that he made up, where you had to figure out a book of the Bible based on his clue. There was one that no one got – the clue was a bunch of random, super long numbers. It seems obvious now, but the answer of course was Numbers! He was so creative and a gifted teacher.

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