Saying Goodbye to a Loved One from Across the Ocean

Two weeks ago today, I received an urgent message from my mother at 4:30 in the morning. At that time, we were still working out the kinks for communication, but by the time I arrived at school, the news had been delivered. This was news I wasn’t expecting for another decade or longer. On January 8th, my Uncle Mike passed away from what I understand to be heart failure. He was just 50 years old. This man is truly the only uncle I have ever known, and the last living male in my mother’s family. My mother and her two siblings were adopted by my grandparents. My uncle was essentially the last of her family, period. 

I have numerous memories of being visited by Uncle Mike in the many places we have lived over the years. He was always so happy to spend special time with us girls, whether it involved a trip to the mall for Sunday clothes, a visit to the pond to feed the ducks with discount bread from the Sunbeam shop, or an exciting day at the park! Memories I will hold forever in my heart. 

His heart for the women in his family was bigger than many men I have met in my life. In the center of us all was his sweet Annabelle. In 2000, Uncle Mike became the proud father of his one and only child. He had been preparing for this day with us girls for almost 24 years. He was an absolute wreck! I remember visiting him when he and Annabelle’s mother were still expecting. He would play board games with us and talk about how excited and anxious he was to meet his daughter. When Annabelle arrived in late Summer/early Fall, it was as if Uncle Mike had finally received what he had waited for his whole life. His relationship with his father was not a positive one, ever, so this was his opportunity to give Annabelle everything he had missed out on in life. Most importantly, love. Over the past 13 years, I watched Uncle Mike give Annabelle a father who cared, encouraged, provided for her wants and needs, loved unconditionally, was authoritative, and worked harder than most to do each of those things. His utmost purpose in life was to raise Annabelle to be the best version of her she could be. He was totally and completely dedicated to the well-being of this young woman, his only blood relative. What an incredible relationship to look back to and admire. 

My biggest prayer in this tragedy is for Annabelle. I can only imagine the emotions that overcome her in the loss of her father. A young woman, only 13, has lived out my biggest nightmare from childhood. I was in constant fear of my father’s passing due to his poor health, but God continued to keep him in my life, and still does. I pray that she is surrounded my a community who will lift her up with love and encouragement. I pray that those around her fill her heart with positive and loving memories of her late father. When she’s missing him the most, I pray that something small reminds her of his love and she feels him there beside her. I know he will never leaver her side, even if he cannot be there physically. I hope she is able to accept this tragedy and use it to grow and become the incredible woman he was guiding her to be. I pray that one day she has a family of her own to love like her father did before her, and share the many stories he gave her in their time together. 

One day, I hope I can look at my life and say, “I have loved my family as Uncle Mike loved his Annabelle. 

Annabelle at the Park