7.01.2011

Uncle Royal's Friend Leuk

  I know, I know, I’ve spelled Luke wrong.  Or at least that’s how it might appear.  But my Uncle Royal has recently been told that he’s got leukemia and you know what he’s doing?  He’s using it as an opportunity to reach out to family and friends, to finish that book he’s been writing, to listen like he’s never heard before, to appreciate physical touches more.  To live, laugh, and love more.  He’s calling the enemy “my friend leuk.”
   A sign outside the veterinary clinic that I frequently pass that reads – The brook would lose its song without any rocks – made me think about my uncle yesterday and what he said.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to trivialize his fate.  It’s not like he’s simply going through a rough patch right now.  The doctors have been frank; this blood issue will be terminal.  But I so admire how my uncle is facing the giants.  He probably has an array of feelings about his diagnosis, but it’s how he’s responding to these feelings that impresses and inspires me.  He’s looking up and around rather than down.
   A retired Lutheran pastor, Uncle Royal gave a sermon a few weeks back at a Lay Ministers’ reunion.  Instead of ignoring the elephant in the room, he described it to us. He talked about the many rooms in a house, and how there used to be a parlor in his house when he was young that no one went into except for at special times, for a celebration or a death.  Before funeral homes, which incidentally used to be referred to as funeral parlors, people would hold the viewing to say their goodbyes to their loved one in the parlors of their homes.  Uncle Royal seems grateful that his friend Leuk has called him in for a sneak peek of the parlor. 
   In a recent email, my uncle Royal said this: This experience sure has made us check our priorities again - how do I want to spend the time and energy I have left? Healthy stuff - just one of the many blessings which are already coming. 
   It’s SO Uncle Royal to reconnect instead of disconnect, to express gratitude instead of grump around, to praise instead of pout.  For the time being, he’s feeling healthy and alive.  He says that his blood is about a C minus and when that falls to a D, he’ll have to consider treatment options.  But I don’t sense that he wants us to be sad for him.  He’s grieving a bit, sure, but in putting it out there and talking about it, he’s giving us permission to comment, to ask questions and to grieve along with him.  And mostly, he just wants us to be thankful with him because he says that he’s learning a new song as he travels over these rocks with his new friend, Leuk.   

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