I've spent over 25 Thanksgivings at the home of my Aunt Barb and Uncle LaVone. I even scheduled a flight home from Ireland to arrive just 36 hours before Thanksgiving in 2013, because I didn't want to miss it.
My Uncle LaVone would welcome everyone and anyone at Thanksgiving dinner, but in a loud and outspoken manner. Always quirky, telling jokes, asking to-the-point questions, yelling for the sake of it, and caring.
Every chance I've had while visiting back in Southeastern Iowa, I've made it a point to swing by their house. Being family-oriented, genuine people helps attract those in search of good company.
A few months ago, my Uncle LaVone's mobility drastically slowed down. Over the past couple months, health concerns began to pile up, ultimately leading to an out-of-the-blue diagnosis of bone cancer. It was inoperable, and had spread all throughout his body and into his brain.
Over the following days, I noticed the emotion of anger come over me, and my frustrations piqued one morning. I went straight to the boxing gym, put on my hand wraps and gloves, and began hitting the heavy bags. Over and over, with no timers set. I was furious that cancer had its grips on another loved one. I only stopped hitting the bag when my left hand started to go numb.
Afterwards I left and slowly walked back to my apartment. I then sat in silence and finally accepted the news. I embraced it, and began to critically think about the coming days, and how my Uncle wouldn't be a host at Thanksgiving this year.
Boxing, biking, running with Mikayla, and obsessively and relentlessly working have kept my anxiety at bay, but I've been dreading a phone call over the past couple weeks.
Since the acceptance, every night's prayers began with asking for my Uncle LaVone to be blessed with courage and strength.
Tonight I received that phone call. My uncle's time with us here is over. Now, we only have memories, and I know we're all holding onto them tighter tonight.
My heart has been heavy over the past few hours, with a sinking feeling of everything slowing down to seconds. My emotions have been back and forth like a pendulum.
On a late walk tonight with Mikayla, I couldn't help but stare directly up into the night sky. I was quietly reminding myself just how small but significant humans can be.
My last visit with my uncle was just about a month ago.
Ever since I can remember, he's called me Clay Cadoodlehopper.
I began and ended our visit with a hug.
Staring at each other as I prepared to leave, I said, "I love you, Unc."
He quickly replied with, "I love you, Clay."
There were no goodbyes.
I am blessed to have known the man, and to have a perfect ending memory with him.
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