I am republishing this post which I originally posted in early October adding these photos which inspired some of what I wrote below.
My wife's Uncle John passed away last Sunday at age 82. He had been plagued by a variety of ailments for several weeks, and ultimately just couldn't fight it any longer.
I was asked to say something at the service. My wife's family is catholic and the service was a mass at a local catholic church. I knew I couldn't in good conscience do a reading from the bible or make any religious references. John and his twin brother Mike had been record setting distance runners in high school back in the early 1940s. John also served in the Coast Guard during WWII and was a city planning engineer for Indianapolis for several years.
I wrote the following:
Twins. The two rose up slight and swift.
Running the cinder track and the countryside
Faster than any who came before.
There were eleven all told – ten boys, one girl -
The lone flower among the tough but protective thorns.
They made their way through depression and war.
Giving and drawing strength to and from
One another, engendering the best and truest
Meaning of family.
John sailed the Pacific in war.
Sitting astride the great tortoise
His cap jaunty on his head.
King of the world.
Back at home he found his beautiful Rose
His Red Rose blooming
Above others on the vine.
From their bond came three.
Ann, Beth and John
At work John helped the traffic to flow.
An engineer in mind and heart
He knew how things should work,
And how they should be built,
And why they failed.
At rest, in his blue captain’s hat
Guiding his small boats
Loving his wife, his children,
His grandson - yet another John.
John clung to his life, enduring endless pokes
And prods, and tubes and beeping machines.
But in the end, brought asunder by the ravages
Which render us all frail and tired.
Twin Michael left us first.
Then Anthony, Salvatore, August.
Leo, Paul and Joseph
Remaining with us are Josephine, Thomas and Frank
John's twin brother Mike was the first of the 11 to succumb back in the mid 1990s. He was afflicted with ALS - Lou Gehrig's Disease, and mercifully went relatively quickly. Even so, it was a horrific thing to watch him be reduced to total incapacity. To date, an additional six of the brothers have died including my father in-law, Gus.
As I've stated in prior posts, I come from a very small family. My wife is the oldest of 8 children. She has aunts and uncles and cousins and nieces and nephews by the bucket full. Early in our relationship I suffered from culture shock. I have now been associated with her family for around 35 years. Over those years I have come to know of, respect and appreciate the good aspects of a large family. If there is a downside, it is watching them pass one by one.