Uncle Bud

Just days ago our beloved Uncle Bud fell and did not regain consciousness. This past year his body and mind had started giving way, and our collective family grief began. Now it’s in full force. He’s gone.

Among his many achievements and passions, Uncle Bud was a master fisherman. I walk by the river, seeing it through his eyes, feeling his hand-rubbing oh-boy enthusiasm from the inside out. God walks alongside, quiet.

“It wasn’t all rosy,” she says. “For him or your mom…”

“I know,” I interrupt. “They didn’t talk about it much, but I know.”

Uncle Bud was generous, kind, and positive. Filled with good humor and gratitude. In contrast, his childhood included poverty and difficulties most people don’t have to face. In a moment of rare self-disclosure my mom told me that she and Uncle Bud had a pact: They would be there for each other, and they would never, ever give in to the negativity and deprivation they experienced as children.

I’ve known a lot of bitter, unkind people, who constantly blame others for their troubles. Their parents, the government, teachers, partners, neighbors, children—anyone but themselves. Fault-finding is a toxic hobby; blame obliterates gratitude. This is ironic because gratitude lifts the spirit. But for some reason, finding fault is simple, and blame is easy. Gratitude takes effort.

“Why is blaming so seductive?” I ask God.

“That’s a no-brainer,” God answers. “It’s lack of center. Lack of compassion. Insecure people crave admiration. They focus on what’s wrong around them to build themselves up. They’re takers, not givers. Enough is never enough and they are never to blame.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I feel that tension all the time.”

“What tension?” God asks with false innocence.

“I want to be positive and cool like Uncle Bud, but I also want everyone to notice how much I give, how hard I try. I tell myself it’d be good for them to be grateful. But that’s not how it works is it?”

“Being positive is a choice, and gratitude’s a choice. You can’t demand gratitude,” God says with a knowing grin. “Trust me. I’ve tried!”

 “Ha! You’re almost as funny as Uncle Bud.” I smile sadly.

“Thanks,” God says. “He really was amazing.” I nod. We watch the trout rise. And together we remember Uncle Bud with sadness, love, and deep well-earned, willingly offered gratitude for the courageous choices he made and all the ways he added happiness to the lives around him.