There are so many different ways you could say it: died, took his last breath, expired, passed away, deceased, called Home. Either way, his earthly body is gone. And he leaves behind a legacy of family and some good memories.
He was my Father's eldest brother- older than my dad by 9 years. The first of FOUR Behm boys. (Oh, my grandmother.... not only raising four boys, but four BEHM boys).
One of my favorite memories of my uncle Dick was at Thanksgiving. All of my childhood Thanksgivings involves my uncle Dick, his wife Aunt Corrine, and all their kids- my four cousins (one boy, three girls- and their significant others). This tribe was together again on Christmas Eve as well.
One thing you'd understand -if you knew a Behm well- is that we're, by nature, button-pushers. Most Behms have harder shells, warmer insides, tend to be a what-you-see-is-what-you-get and are fiercely loyal... but we're also button pushers.
So, every Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, I would get razzed. Sure enough, someone would start a conversation (usually Uncle Dick) with a twinkle in their eye and a sideways grin. I'd take the razzing with a grain of salt (crying shows weakness... just deal with it with a smile).... and eventually, they'd chuckle and move on to their next prey. I'd get a "you're all right" as they moved on... meaning I rolled with the punches. I could take the heat in stride.
There was a Thanksgiving- I was 19. I was the prey...a few of the fellas were pushing buttons, and Uncle Dick was observing. And I threw it back. I pushed buttons in return and took the heat from me to them. It was probably one of my finest hours- where I learned the fine language of "sarcastic" and "snarky" and realized I could rule the conversation with them.
Uncle Dick's eyes got wide(er- he didn't have big eyes to being with), and chuckled to the fellas, "I guess she got you.... chuckle chuckle.".
That night, at dinner, Uncle Dick poured me my first glass of wine. My mom put up the token fuss saying "she's underage....", but he said "she's old enough for a glass with dinner."
I had arrived.
And I knew I had because Uncle Dick said so.
Not in so many words, but with his actions.
Here's a few things I've always appreciated about my uncle:
- He had a great chuckle. All the BEHM boys do.
- He always purchased the most expensive thing on my Christmas list. I didn't realize this for some time, but one Thanksgiving night, he handed me the JCPenney catalog, and said, "don't hold back, now... you hear?". So, I wrote three or four things down, and then for grins I threw in a ventriloquist dummy that looked like Charlie Chaplin. It was a $50 doll. Wouldn't you know it, that's what I opened the following Christmas Eve. I still have that doll. Not because I have any interest in ventriloquism, but because it reminds me of his generosity. I think everyone needs an aunt/uncle like that. The one that makes you feel more special than the others (even if they are doing it for the others too).
- In high school, I was in a biology class that brought us out to a college research vessel on a river. Low and behold, he was the captain of said vessel. This earned me a special privilege of steering the ship for a bit and a little more chatty time in the wheel house. It was here I told him that I feel most at home near or on a body of water- that something about it makes me feel calmer than not. He chuckled, and mentioned that he was the same way. A week later, he brought over a neon pink ship hat (which in the early 90's...no no no to neon....), but the gesture was so sweet, and he had found a way to connect with his teenage niece. I appreciated that.
- He ALWAYS supported my children in their walk-a-thon fundraiser. Every time I asked him for support, he was there. Generously there. Never a "I gave last year, or last quarter....". Always there. That kind of generous loyalty is something to be celebrated.
- Here's my most favorite: he always always always sent a birthday card. Just the card, but he always sent one. Without fail. This year, I didn't get one from him near my birthday, and I thought I should pray for him. It's so weird that I'd miss his simple card. He passed away on Friday, October 16. The day after he passed, I received a birthday card from him. It was funny and simple. And something I'll hang on to for years to come.
- Last, but certainly not least.... my uncle loved God. Faithfully showing up to services as often as he could. Engaging in a family of believers when he could. I love this one because I know... I KNOW that Tuesday's funeral is not good-bye. It's just a "see ya later."
So, thank you, Uncle Dick, for being you. For doing your best. For leading by example. I'm so glad I got to be in your family circle. Thank you for loving God. I'll see ya later.