Uncle Gary

It’s Holy Week and my heart is still heavy with grief. My last, and favorite uncle, died suddenly on March 9, 2015. We celebrated his life in an intimate memorial service in Anacortes, Washington on March 28, the day before Holy Week began. What follows are few brief thoughts I had the privilege of sharing at the service. 

Uncle Gary and me at Paulina Lake, July 2013
Uncle Gary and me at Paulina Lake, July 2013

There are some people who just exude life. Hub, or Uncle Gary as I knew him, was one such person. He was out-going, talkative with an infectious laugh, and a presence wherever he was. He knew everyone and had a story for everything. His untimely death is leaving a gaping hole in his family, and among his friends and colleagues.

We’re here today to celebrate Uncle Gary’s life. I think of this as him holding court. His favorite throne was his lazy boy chair, but he held court on the golf course, in a fishing boat, at the bbq or store counter, even on the phone. He genuinely loved engaging with people and before you knew it he was off on a story and soon had everyone laughing so hard you couldn’t stand up.

Uncle Gary didn’t just tell a story, he told epic stories. He could take some mundane, inconsequential piece of information and weave it into a saga. Before you even knew what you were in for, you were hooked. I don’t think he ever told a story that didn’t have humor. Usually he’d start laughing and before you knew it, you all were laughing. You might not even remember what the story was about, but you could barely breathe because you were laughing so hard! He was a master at embellishing those epic stories as well. I think it was a male Hubbard trait; one he inherited from his father, my grandfather. They were legendary story-tellers.

Uncle Gary was a true, died-in-the-wool salesman. I think he could sell a Dairy Queen burger to a vegetarian. Today, we might refer to him as a serial entrepreneur, but in reality, he was a true salesman. Like his storytelling abilities, his sales abilities were also a gift. I think he loved having something to offer you that would really enjoy, want, or need. Sales was just another avenue he used to connect with others.

Uncle Gary had two main hobbies: golf and fishing. All those Dairy Queen conferences were just an excuse to play golf at yet another resort. Not only did he love playing golf, he loved engineering and crafting his own custom golf clubs! I know there are some who received some of his treasured, hand-crafted golf clubs. The same was true for fishing. His laid-back nature was perfect for fishing and he brought that same focused craftsmanship to making custom-fishing rods. No doubt Aunt Carol was relieved when he completed that golf club or fishing pole and the living room could be reclaimed! Uncle Gary saw it as his patriarchal responsibility to make sure every new family member was properly introduced to the fine art of fishing. His was a family of fishing fools.

I was almost eight when Uncle Gary married Carol. And it was a very good thing. Carol grounded Gary and gave him his most precious gift … his family. There was nothing on this earth more precious or important to Uncle Gary than his family. Every family has his challenges, but any challenge can be weathered and withstood when there is love that anchors you together. Gary and Carol have anchored their family with an unbounded love. Tom and Heidi, Kim, Brandon, Rachel, Ian, Tori, Gavin, Andrew, Hunter, Gabe and Camden – it is now up to you to anchor your Mom, “Bob” or Gram, and one another with the love your Dad and Papa left as his legacy to you.

Even though we know that death is a part of life, we are never prepared when it comes to someone we love. The loss of someone close to us is a bittersweet reminder of just how precious are our lives. It’s a reminder of what is important, like family and relationships, and treasuring all that we’ve been given. Whether you knew him as Hub or Gary or Papa or Uncle Gary, you know your life was enriched because he was a part of it. His legacy lives in the stories and memories and lessons he’s left behind. We honor him and the sacred gift of life given to each of us by our Creator by remembering and sharing and loving each other on this journey.

I want to close with one of my favorite Scriptures from the Psalms.

Lord, let me know my end,
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting my life is.
You have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing in your sight.
Surely everyone stands as a mere breath.
For I am your passing guest,
an alien, like all my forebears (Psalm 39:4-4, 12). Amen.

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