Wednesday, September 30, 2009

thank you for being my friend

It was 30 years ago last month that I moved in to your home.

I was only eight-years-old at the time and I thought that my sister and I were just visiting South Carolina for a vacation. But when we didn't fly home and my mother and brother drove down from Massachusetts to join us a few days later, I knew that my life was about to change, forever.

Those were the most tumultuous days of my life. But you were solid ground. You made us feel safe and secure and welcome. You helped us to start over again. You showered us with your love and hospitality. You showed us, through your example, how a husband should cherish his wife and family, unconditionally.

Everyone has a story about you and just about everyone will say that you are the most amazing man that they have ever had the privilege of meeting. Children adored you. Adults did, too. You were kind and gentle and patient. You were humble and soft spoken. You had an incredible gift of making everyone feel important and special. And whatever you had happening in your own life, would be put on hold if someone needed your help.

Whenever you would talk with people, you were never distracted. You were always present in the moment. You are who I strive every day to be more like.

You were honest and respectful. You brought laughter in to all situations. You worked so hard and were motivated. You would stand up for people who couldn't stand up for themselves. You defended my family as if we your very own. You had an innate sense of knowing when to lend advice or support, a gentle ear, or a shoulder to cry on.

You saw the good in everything and in everybody. Even though you were given a terminal diagnosis, you never stopped trying. You lived each day to the fullest and you inspired everyone around you to do the same. And up until the very end, you kept your sense of humor. This past weekend, when my mother was visiting and she asked, "Is there anything I can do for you?" you gently laughed and said, "You could trade places with me."

There is little doubt that you are the most successful man I have ever met. But what defines success? Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote,
"To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.

This is to have succeeded."

Your daughter, Margaret, called me at sunrise to tell me that you left us at 2:45 this morning.

But you haven't really left us. You'll never leave us. You'll always be a part of us. When I hugged you tightly last month and told you, through my tears, that I love you, you smiled and warmly said, "I know, Dear. I know you, do. Thank you for that. " If I'd had more control over my emotions, I would have said, "No. Thank you."

Thank you for taking us in and making us feel like a part of your family.

Thank you for looking out for me, and my siblings, as we grew up.

Thank you for taking me pony shopping when I was nine-years-old in your yellow MGB.

Thank you for being a shining example of what I should look for in a husband.

Thank you for being my advocate and friend.


No one lives forever.

But Uncle Bill ... you will forever live in my heart.

Five years ago, my Uncle Bill was diagnosed with nonsmokers lung cancer and given three months to live. When he heard that I was doing the 3-Day Walk, he told me that if not for clinical trial medications that were developed by the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, he would not have survived for as long as he had.

In recent months, the highlight of my conversations with Uncle Bill surrounded how much money we have raised to fight this dreaded disease. So to all of you who have generously donated to the various events that I have participated in this year, my most sincere thanks for helping to bring joy to one of my favorite people in the world.

59 comments:

  1. I am so very sorry for your loss.

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  2. I am so sad to hear about Uncle Bill's passing. I know you must be heartbroken. He sounded like an amazing man and I know he will be missed by so many. I think a lot of him will live on in you and I think he was probably just as proud of you as you were of him.

    Kate

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  3. I am so sorry for your loss Jen!!! I will be thinking about you and your family!

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  4. Oh Jen. I'm so sad to hear this for you and your family. Your uncle sounds like he was a very special man and has had a huge impact on your life and the life of your family. I'm glad you were able to spend some time with him last month. He must have cherished the great memories of spending time with you. Hugs for you and your family. You're in our thoughts.

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  5. Oh Jen, I'm so incredibly sorry to read about the loss of your Uncle Bill. What an amazing man he sounds like, you were so fortunate to have someone so special in your life. Big hugs to you! :(

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  6. What a tribute. What an incredible tribute.

    And I'm not talking about your blog entry today.

    I'm talking about your life...the way you're raising your family to be fiercely generous and totally relentless in pursuing what's right.

    Sounds like Uncle Bill is living on in an incredible way.

    All the same...my heart breaks for your loss...and I know that all of Uncle Bill's family is grieving deeply. You have my prayers and sympathy as you try to adjust to this new way of life. I know he will be painfully missed.

    But what's so beautiful is that he will be totally joyfully celebrated. Forever.

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  7. I'm sorry for your loss. He sounds like a truly wonderful person.

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  8. Goodbye Uncle Bill... So sorry for your family's loss! Sending prayers and hugs your way...

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  9. I'm so sorry for your loss, but so glad that you had such an amazing man in your life. What a blessing.

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  10. I am so sorry for your loss. You've made no secret of what a wonderful man he was and what he meant to you. You gave him a beautiful gift in being so communicative of the love and respect you have for him. I can't imagine how you feel.

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  11. Im so sorry for your loss. He sounds like an amazing man.

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  12. So sorry for the loss of your dear Uncle Bill. There are no words. What a beautiful tribute you have shared.

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  13. I am so sorry for your loss. Just last night, I was reading through your archives and was truly touched by your Uncle Bill's story. I feel like I've lost a friend tonight. He really was an amazing man.

    My grandmother died of non-smokers lung cancer in March. I can't wait until the day that we finally get cancer beat.

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  14. I am sorry:( I have enjoyed reading about him, I can tell you will miss him greatly.

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  15. Oh Jen, I'm so sorry. I believe the world has lost a great man, and heaven has just gained a true angel. (((HUGS)))

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  16. Jen, I'm so sorry! I think he will live on in EVERYONE's hearts. I know just reading about him has made me strive to be a better person. What a testimony his life is and will always be to everyone who hears it. My sympathies and prayers to your family!

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  17. What an absolutely beautiful tribute to a beautiful man you have allowed us to get to know through your many loving posts about him! Be blessed in your warm memories and his love for you, as well as your for him.

    Saying good-bye is never, ever easy. My thoughts are with you and your family as you go through this season in your lives.

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  18. So sorry to hear that your Uncle Bill is gone. I'm glad he beat the Dr's odds and got to spend so much more time as an inspiration.

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  19. What a beautiful tribute to Uncle Bill. Is there a possibility of reading this at his funeral or memorial?

    I'm so sorry for your loss and that of his family.

    KarenM in NC

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  20. So, so sorry sweetie. I love reading about your Uncle and how much joy he has brought to your family. You are truly blessed to have known such a gracious & loving man.

    Know you are in our prayers during this difficult time.

    jclarkcrew5

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  21. Jen,
    Sorry to hear about your uncle. Hugs to you and Margaret.

    Steph A

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  22. I'm so sorry to hear of your loss. You are an inspiration for all of the hard work you and your family have put towards finding the cure for cancer.

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  23. Beautiful post!!
    Love the Emerson quote too.
    Another one that holds a lot of meaning for me is by Richard Bach;
    'What the Caterpillar Calls the End of Life, the Master Calls a Butterfly.'
    Take care,
    Jeremi

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  24. You have said it all Jen. Beautifully.

    XOXO AM

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  25. I'm so sorry for your loss. My deepest sympathies to you and your family. What an inspirational person your uncle was.

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  26. Jen:

    How lucky you are to have had such a wonderful person in your life. I know it's hard to let them go, but we will all have our time. Treasure all of those fabulous memories.

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  27. I am sorry for the loss that you, your family, and - based on the wonderful thing you have written about him - all of us in society as a whole have experienced. Reading your words, I saw it coming and tears welled up.

    What an inspiration and a role model your Uncle Bill was. I wish your family peace and strength for the coming days.

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  28. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family at this time of terrible sorrow.

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  29. I am sorry for you, your family and the world's loss. He seemed like a wonderful man and he will live on through the people that were close to him. My thoughts and prayers are with you at this sad time.

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  30. I am so sorry about your Uncle Bill, he seemed like a genuine and caring man. How fortunate that you were able to see him last month.

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  31. One of many cuzzins!9/30/09, 11:48 PM

    Jen,

    I love the Emerson quote. It's the perfect description of Uncle Bill. There really is no one like him in the world.

    I know your bond with him and special affection for him. I am so sorry for your loss.

    Love,
    Regina

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  32. I am so sorry to hear about your Uncle Bill's passing. You have definately done him justice by sharing stories of him. He sounds like an amazing person.

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  33. :*( ..... Rest in peace dear Uncle Bill.

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  34. I am so sorry for your loss. What a wonderful man. You are so right he is still around, his legacy will live on forever. My thoughts and prayers go out to you all.

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  35. Michelle M in TX10/1/09, 7:11 AM

    I'm so sorry. What a sad loss. I wanted him to be my uncle too...he was such an incredible man with that infectious smile. I'll be lifting his family up in prayers today.

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  36. I'm very sorry for your loss. Your uncle Bill was a man to be admired. May he rest in peace.

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  37. I am so sorry for your loss. Your Uncle Bill has inspired me as I help my mom in her battle against non-smokers lung cancer. I know he will be truly missed.

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  38. I am so sorry that Uncle Bill has gone to be with the Lord. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

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  39. Hi, I am so sorry for your loss. He sounds like an amazing person. Julie

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  40. I'm so sorry for your loss. He truly sounds like he was a wonderful person and that he will be very missed.

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  41. That was the sweetest post. I have tears in my eyes. I'm emotional today and that hit me just so. I'm glad you had him in your life.

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  42. I am very sorry to hear of Uncle Bill's passing. Sending prayers your way.

    Lorraine
    (Carolyn's Boards)

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  43. Thank you so much for sharing your Uncle Bill with us through your blog posts. He was/is(!) an inspiration and I'm sure he is so proud of you and all you have done to inspire your readers.
    I am so sorry for your loss. Prayers for you and your entire family. ((((hugs))))

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  44. Dear Jen, Dick and I had the pleasure of spending time with Grace and Bill. We came away knowing how special they both are/were. Bill gave so much to all and had a gift for relating to so many people. His philosophy was simple - love, and love giving. My sympathy to all the Finnells. He was a role model for you and others as well as "Mother Mary." I am saddened to know he has left his world but he left it a better place and his legacy continues to live on. My love and sympathy to you all - I understand your loss and share it.

    Mrs. D.

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  45. aunt ann says hello

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  46. I am sorry for your loss. What a wonderful tribute. He sounded like an amazing man.

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  47. My Father, My Mentor, My next door neighbor, My builder, My first love and My Dear Dear Friend. I miss him so much already. Thanks Father for so many wonderful gifts and for your final gift to me in saying Goodbye. I will miss you so much already.

    All my Love, Marg.

    PS Thanks to your readers for such beautiful words and condolences. Your words are beautifully written Jen. Thank you.

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  48. So sorry to learn of your great loss.

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  49. also My biggest fan and cheerleader. Love, Marg

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  50. I like what another commented said. Your life is the best tribute to Uncle Bill. As well as your writing about all the tremendous things you inspire others to do. My condolences to your whole extended family.

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  51. What a wonderful person to have in your life. My heart goes out to you and your family in this time.

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  52. I think one of the things that you did not say was that Uncle Bill was a listner. He did not talk about himself very much, but wanted to know all about you and "How are YOU doing?"
    He taught me to listen plus lots of other good kind things.
    Everytime I see a butterfly now, I will think of the saying by Robert Bach---"What the catterpiller calls the end of life, the Master calls a Butterfly." Thank you to one of your readers for sharing that.
    MOM
    MOM-

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  53. I am so sorry for your loss. I had such a hard time reading this and had an even harder time finding words. I hate that cancer has claimed another victim, especially one so wonderful. Prayers for you and your family.

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  54. I am so sorry for your loss, Jen. What a wonderful tribute to your Uncle.

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  55. Whenever Bill came into a room there was almost a HUSH...his presence created an amazing energy that made every one feel "BILL IS HERE". He was a connection everyone wanted. What an awesome life he lived. Your testament to him is apt. Everyone has a story of his gentle touch. He did live in the moment and that is such a lesson for us all. We only have today, appreciate & celebrate it. We all feel his loss even though we are miles away but our deepest sympathy goes to those of you who had the privilege of enjoying his lovely light every day.
    Marie

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  56. I could tell how much your uncle meant to you when he was there to see you cross your first marathon finish line. I am so sorry for your loss. A loss of soooo much more than an uncle. You were very lucky to have had him in your life. Your walk this next month will have even more meaning.Your 3-Day walk will be an even more emotional journey. For me, it was one of the most inspiring things I have ever done for another person. Walk on Jen!!

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  57. Jen, I'm so sorry about your Uncle Bill. He was clearly an incredibly wonderful man and the world needs more people like him.

    But you're right he'll never really be gone because he's carried in the hearts of those who love him. I'm glad you got once last chance to see him on your trip.

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  58. Okay. Yep. It's me again. - I keep clicking on your blog, then on to Anne Marie's, my sister Lisa's, on to Mackey Mortuary's website and back to yours again - starting the whole process all over again. I have read every post written about my Dad several times over as well each and every pleasant comment.

    Yep. This is real. Oh dear God - Father I miss you so much! Today I've felt so empty.

    SOOOOOOO that's it. I'm gooing to Fill myself up on Peanut Butter cups and go for a bike ride - maybe even stop to pick some flowers and drop them off at someones doorstep!! (hopefully they won't have a dog) ;-) Marg.

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