Right now I am in an airplane flying back from Saratoga Springs, New York. I took a 5 day trip to visit my Uncle Nick who, a few weeks back, was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer. Needless to say this was a surprise to the entire extended family. Fortunately this extended family is quite strong and supportive. Being in the presence of the love, kindness, and humor of my uncle and family these past few days has left a lasting impression with me.
I’ve known my Uncle Nick for well over 20 years. He is a “one-of-a-kind” person and personality. Always kind and giving, with firmness and one of the best sense’s of humor I know. He is a solid man, a presence in the room, but as he would say he’s “just a simple country boy.”
There are many long-standing jokes and mythologies he not only created but helps to maintain up to this day. For example, he has the unwavering belief that my father has numerous coffee can’s filled with money buried throughout his backyard. My Uncle thinks my father’s claims of not having money are B.S. and that he keeps putting money in cans, and burying them. Over the years any time the topic of money would come up, Uncle Nick would be sure to mention to my father that he needs to stop being so stingy and dig up some of the coffee cans and “give the kid some money.” Of course this drove my father nuts, and everyone would have a good laugh.
I visited with my uncle 3 times over this week. Each visit he seemed to be a little better than the last primarily because he has decided to stop radiation and chemotherapy. Being at stage 4 with his type of cancer, combined with his age (77) puts him in a situation of either enjoying what time he has left as best he can, or to poison himself and be in pain for his remaining time on Earth. He has come to terms with the idea that the finish line of life is near. He is blessed in that people that love him can come and say their goodbyes as I did. His passing is imminent but he has time left and has decided to live it as best and comfortably as he can and for that I admire him as I always have.
This visit to see my uncle for the last time has reminded me that money and work, while nice to have, is not the end-all be-all of our daily existence. Having strong connections with friends and family is very important and those people show up in your life when you need them.
The TIME you have to spend in life, doing whatever it is you do, is the most valuable and important thing we all have other than life itself.