Yesterday I received a call from my Great-Aunt Ruth, who had sad news — her brother, my Great-Uncle Ben, had passed away earlier in the week. He was 77. The news was, quite frankly, startling. My sister and I just visited Ben over the winter holidays and he drove us all over Carter County, Tenn. He took us to the house where he and his siblings were raised, to the grave site of his parents and then took us out for barbecue. He gave my sister car advice.
But he did confess to us that he had triple bypass surgery in the fall (and hadn’t told anyone in the family). Of course, we immediately tattled on him to our aunts, who in turn told Ruth. Turns out, that bypass was in preparation for an even trickier surgery a week ago to operate on an aneurysm on his aorta (and again, he hadn’t warned anyone in the family). The surgery was not successful.
Ben’s wishes were that during his funeral he didn’t want “anyone standing around my grave crying.” So his good friend called my great-aunt on Tuesday, after Ben passed away. But she couldn’t call anyone else in the family until yesterday, after the funeral. I was the first person she reached yesterday and it fell to me to try and contact my sister and aunts with the news. I found his obituary online and shared that too.
I learned a lot from the obituary. His nickname was “Blink.” He was a basketball referee and served on the board of his church. I already knew he was a classic car fan, but that was about it.
The number of times I got to see Uncle Ben could be counted on one hand. I remember visiting with him at my Great-Grandma’s house and he ordered me to finish my green beans (I was five years old and I hated green beans). This prompted me to run away though I was gone for so short a time, I wasn’t even missed. During another visit with him at my grandma’s, I remember noting that his socks didn’t match. He didn’t care. He was a bachelor to the end.
I didn’t know Ben very well, but my sister and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit with him. We were the last members of the family to see him and as I spoke with my relatives yesterday, they all remarked on the timing of our visit. My sister and I count ourselves lucky for the chance to see him and learn from him before he passed away. While we were at the graves of my great-grandparents, I noticed there was a marker there for Ben already. It comforts me that I now know exactly where to go to visit him. Thank you and rest in peace, Uncle Ben.