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The Patriarch.


My Uncle Chuck is my touchstone. He has been there for me since the day I was born, and now we are having conversations about his Hospice care and what the future holds. Facing this goodbye is one of the saddest experiences of my life. He means so much to me.

I grew up in Michigan, surrounded by the coolest set of aunts, uncles and cousins a kid could want. We saw each other all the time. My grandfather died when I was in grade school and Uncle Chuck took over as patriarch of the Himelhoch clan. He was there for band concerts and bat mitzvahs, family gatherings and quick stopovers. When my pharmacist father was shot and wounded in a holdup, Uncle Chuck was already waiting for us at the hospital when we arrived.

He has always been a remarkable man. His wife died when he had three small boys, but they were his most important priority. He raised them to be good, honorable men. My uncle has always been a compassionate, understanding role model for all of us, telling us that nothing matters more than integrity and truth.

Mom and Dad moved my family to Florida when I was 15. As I graduated high school, then college, I built a life that didn’t intersect with my Michigan family very often. I moved to Jacksonville, then the Miami area, then to Colorado, then back to Florida. My relatives meant a lot to me, but I didn’t see them or call much.

That changed a year ago when a painful situation arose with my sibling. When my aunts, uncles and cousins found out about it, they circled around me and wrapped me in support and love. I used to fear that I’d be alone once my parents passed away. I now know that I will never be alone. I have a huge family that is there for me now and always.  And I will be there for them.

I wanted to send Uncle Chuck something that would tell him how much it meant to me that he’d come to my rescue in such a dark moment. “Just call him more often,” my friend Pam suggested. I said, “Yeah, but I haven’t been doing that all along. Wouldn’t that seem odd?” “It’ll mean everything to him,” she said.

It has meant everything to me. I started calling every week or so, and he called me, too. Now it is almost every day because he is so homebound and I want as much time with him as I can have. He’ll hear my voice and say, “Hello, Sweetheart? Fawn?” Our relationship has deepened and grown so much that I feel like I truly know him now. He gives me unconditional love and is a big part of my life. We’ve talked about ethics and politics and family history and the Hereafter. We’ve shared so much that we never discussed before.

Why didn’t I have conversations like these with my dear Uncle Bob and Uncle Hank before it was too late? They were such great men, and I know I had a lot to learn from them, too. The lesson for me has been that family matters. Grab it while you can. And grab it where you can.

Every time we talk, he says, “I’m going to give you an assignment. You know what it is, don’t you?” It’s to give my sweet mother and father hugs and kisses from him. Now that he is feeling so ill and speculating that time may be short, I am giving him an assignment: to tell all my loved ones who have passed on to the other side how much I miss and love them. And to give them hugs and kisses from me.

This world is better because he’s been in it, and heaven will be brighter when he goes. I will miss him so much. My sweet, sweet uncle.

1 Comment
  1. This is a great tribute to my father. I don’t know if I want to read this to him yet. what do you think. Hospice care is to improve his quality of life and does n ot necessarily mean his time is limited. Love, Jeff

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