Posted by: The Simple Guy | February 22, 2011

“Today, you will be with Me, in Paradise. . “

Let me introduce you to my uncle.

Sadly, I don’t have any pictures, but let me tell you about him.  Bill is a really neat guy.  He  has dark eyes, but a quick smile.  He is middle eastern in heritage, but fully American.  The son of immigrants, he is a patriotic American.  Bill works hard.  He grew up in poverty, and knows what it is to be in need.  He had polio as a boy, which resulted in one leg not being as fully developed as the other.  He wore a shoe with a thick sole to make up the difference.  You probably wouldn’t have noticed unless it was toward the end of a hard day.  Then sometimes he limped a little.  But even then, he might not if he knows you are watching.

He told me the story once of how when he was a little boy his father had a bunch of robins in their freezer that he had shot for food.  Bill laughed at the story, and as a child I just thought it was a funny story.  But as a man I realize that he knew what hunger was.

My first memory of Bill was when I was about 7 years old and was spending a couple of weeks in the summer staying with Grandma and Grandpa on their farm.  Bill took Grandpa’s old red and white Jeep wagon (like a 1955 or something) out to the hay-field and we cut up a couple of down aspen trees that had fallen.  They were going to be in the way when Grandpa cut the hay, so we cut them up and stacked them.   Just Bill’s way of spending some time with his nephew.  It was a special time for me.  That land wound up being my father’s, and that place is my favorite spot on the farm.  Not until last week had I really thought about why, but now I remember.

A couple of years later, I remember eating breakfast at Bill’s house one time when we were visiting.  Bill was at the table with all of us kids, and we were having pancakes and sausage links.  We had real maple syrup, too!  There was me, my three brothers, and Bill’s two kids there.  My auntie Ann was making pancakes for us and we were all having a great time.  I pretended that I was going to steal some food off of Uncle Bill’s plate and he playfully stabbed the table between us.  He said he liked meat with his pancakes!  Then he ate a sausage link with a twinkle in his eye.  We all laughed.  He played along with us just like one of the kids.  I’ll never forget it.

Bill worked for the phone company, one of the big ones, but I don’t remember which one.  He got transferred to the midwest, somewhere in Indiana.  This left no one around to help my Grandpa with the farm.  So Dad moved our family close to Grandpa when I was about 10.

Years later, my first winter out of high school, I went out to Indiana and spent a month with them.  My brother was in college in Chicago, so I visited with him, but spent the majority of the time in Indiana with Auntie Ann and Uncle Bill.  Things were tense for the first week or so, and I couldn’t figure out why.  I didn’t have much to do, and felt guilty not helping out around the place while I ate their food and such, so I got up after the meal every supper and helped with the dishes.  Auntie Ann took me aside and explained to me that Bill is from a different culture.   He loves to be the host, and as his guest I was insulting him by helping with the dishes.   It was like I was telling him that he wasn’t a good enough host.  So I stopped.  Once I saw that hospitality was his gift to me, I relaxed and enjoyed the time with them.  He was in touch with my feelings too though.  The last week I was there he asked me if I would help him by changing the oil in his cars,  he also took his car to a tire shop and let me help him pick out a good set of new tires for his car.  (I had been working at a tire shop the previous fall)  His car didn’t need tires.  He was letting me feel useful.  Asking for my help cost him.  It would be like me inviting you over for a meal, and then asking you to pay for it.  It went against everything he was to ask.  He did such a good job, I didn’t even figure out what he was doing until years later.

Bill didn’t preach.  I don’t remember him leading a small group or Bible study.  But his house was open to people others would not help.  I remember them taking in a couple of different troubled people.  One of my cousins was adopted from an unwed mother.  I have seen Jesus in Bill like in few others.  When I struggle to understand the cultural nuances in  Scripture as I study, sometimes I think of Bill, and things will start to make more sense.

Ann and Bill have four grown children.  The oldest is a girl, and the next three are boys.  The oldest two have devoted their lives to helping the down and out in a city down south.  They have made a life out of being creative in their help of those who society has rejected.  Sometimes that means they get their hands dirty.   Sometimes they get taken advantage of.  They keep on keeping on.  The third one is very athletic.  He has devoted countless hours working with kids as a coach.  The fourth is a single guy who works hard to earn enough money to travel to Siberia.  Once he is there, he does missionary work with the down and out there.  He even spent a block of time with a tribal group last year helping them make fences for their reindeer.  He doesn’t go church to church and get support, he pays his own way.  But he has devoted his life to this effort.

Bill and Ann bought Grandma and Grandpa’s house from Grandma after Grandpa died.  Then they made a point of taking care of Grandma.  First they helped her put a small mobile home on the property and kept it up for her.  Then as she became unable to live by herself, Ann learned the hospice profession and the two of them just took her into their home and took care of her.  Grandma’s memory is gone, and she can be difficult.  But they still take care of her.

Bill is diabetic, and has had some challenges, too.  But through these challenges, including amputations, infections, surgeries, etc; he has continued to care for Grandma.  If you went to his house, he would wait on you from his wheel chair.  The lesson I learned earlier helped in this instance.  It was his gift to me and I savored it with gratitude.

Well, at 1am, Bill was healed.  He will never limp again unless he is just playing.  His smile is just as quick as ever, but there is no pain in his eyes anymore.  I suppose the first thing he did with his new legs was fall on his knees before our Savior.

Sunday he told me all he wanted was to see Jesus.  He said saying goodbye was hard, and he wondered how time would seem in Heaven.  He hoped he would be so engrossed in seeing Jesus that we would be there with him before he noticed we were not there yet.

We knew his time was short, because last week he notified the family that he had decided to stop dialysis.  We went down Friday and Sunday to spend time with him.  I expected a somber mood.  Well, it was a party.  There was no fear.  Oh, sure there were some tears, as there should be.   But the atmosphere was joyful.  Bill even joked around with us about how his “last wish” was to bequeath one of Dad’s cars to Tyson (Tyson will be 16 in May).  Now I have a real life example to remember when I read the verses:

1Co 15:54-58 ESV
(54) When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
(55) “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
(56) The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
(57) But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(58) Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Bill won today.

Craig

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Responses

  1. Thank you for sharing this. Your uncle sounds like he is a great guy. I look forward to meeting him, by and by.

    Matthew 22:32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.”

    Squirrel

    • Well said my friend. Thanks for the encouragement.
      Craig

  2. Bill didn’t preach.

    He lived his faith.

    While I cannot say I knew him well, there is no mistaking a heart that is turned toward loving and serving others.

    Your uncle sounds like he is a great guy.

    I really like this perspective 🙂

    And yes. He IS!

    • Heather,
      Thanks for your support through this time. Having you with me was irreplacable. I love you
      Craig

  3. You made me cry. You made me smile. Yes, your uncle is great guy. And he is well now.

    • Yes, this is the ultimate healing. We all look for that day with anticipation.
      His passing reminded me of this verse:
      Psa 116:15 ESV
      (15) Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.

      It was special to me to have my children see that death has no fear for those who are His.
      Craig

  4. What a wonderful testimony! At the same time, sorry for your loss.

    Praise God for the hope that we have. Looking forward to meeting Bill,

    Julie

    • It is comforting to watch a testimony like this unfold. Makes it seem doable, you know?

      Craig

  5. Thanks for sharing, Craig.

    I did not know him well, but his humility is one thing I do remember when I was around him.

    Watching what God is doing with his sons, is evidence of Bill’s character!

    • Lance,
      I had the chance to ask him about his sons, and what his secret was to raising them to become the men they were. His humility was the most striking part of his answer. Interresting to me that those would be the two things you would mention.
      He spoke of how they helped people and had them in their home, whom others usually didn’t. He spoke of holding his kids accountable by trusting them rather than restricting them when they messed up. Spoke of a time when they caught one of the boys doing something wrong, and how the tendancy would have been to ground them or restrict their friends, but instead he and Ann sat him down and let him know how much they trusted him and how much he had let them down. The son was in the room and mentioned that this was a turning point in his life where he started to take integrity seriously. The thought of having to lie or keep a secret from his parents caused him to change some things he had been doing and make better choices.
      But again, the humility was the most striking part of the answer.
      Craig

  6. Thank you for this powerful tribute to your uncle and to the Lord’s work in and through him.


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