Sunday, March 14, 2010

Remembering a Bear Hug

Shortly after Jami and I were married, the man I was named for—Uncle Billy Newton—was nearing the end of his journey. I always loved Uncle Bill, and sharing a few moments with him as he lay dying turned out to be one of those rare encounters you treasure forever.

As soon as we heard Uncle Billy was in the hospital and not doing so well, Jay and I paid him a visit. I was flattered he instantly recognized me as his young namesake. After managing a warm smile, he opened his arms as wide as he could, inviting an embrace that would not be denied. For a man on his last leg, his strength defied reason as he squeezed the very breath out of my lungs.

Once I regained my composure—and my breath—there was one more thing Uncle Billy had in mind. He had an instruction for me, one I would take to heart and always endeavor to obey. "Be good to her, always," Uncle Billy said, slowly lifting his hand and pointing toward the woman I loved. "I will, Uncle Billy. Don't you worry, I will."

And with that gentle commandment, Uncle Billy and I said our good-byes. To this day I remember my kindly uncle as a man with the courage to say what sometimes needed to be said. He knew what a treasure a loving partner could be, having had one of his own in my precious Aunt Nancy. He also knew the importance of always treating one's partner with kindness and respect.

I miss you, Uncle Billy. Thank you for showing me the kind of foot steps worth following in.

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