Losing family, gaining family

I'm overdue in sharing about Rome, but that is going to have to wait right now. Last week, we laid my Uncle Dennis to rest. He was only 70, and had just returned from a trip to the Mediterranean ... including Rome.

Especially in the last few years, I didn't see my Aunt and Uncle as often as we used to. Nor my cousins. But every year when I was growing up, we spent Christmas day at their house near Houston on the way to my Grandma Jensen's house on the coast.

My Uncle was veterinarian. There were always animals at their house, and he found and/or cared for most of my own pet cats growing up. I remember my first cat, Velvet, a kitten our neighbor's cat had ... came down with feline leukemia (before there was a vaccine for that) and his suggestion that if she were able to hold down some baby food there might be something we could do. He was just always so kind, so ready to help, and could gently help you let go when it was time, but wouldn't ask you to give up if there was hope. I wouldn't be able to tell you his favorite animal, from my perspective he didn't play favorites ... with people either.

All my life I wanted to be a veterinarian, and I attribute that to him. If it weren't for less than stellar grades in college (it is actually harder to get accepted to veterinary school than medical school!) and finding out that all veterinarians weren't like my Uncle, and all pet owners didn't want what was best for their pets - that's probably what I would be now. Reality proved to be a little too much for me in this case.

Many at the funeral described my Uncle as a gentle giant ... and that is such an apt description. He was a big man, with big hands, a deep voice, and a big heart (very much like my Grandpa Jensen - he reminded me a lot of my Grandpa). There was nothing scary about his towering stature. I imagine his calming presence is part of what made him so good with animals of all sizes.

But I learned so much about him I hadn't known during the funeral. My Aunt and my cousins were generous in sharing with us more private aspects of his personality, who he had been and who he had become, and his walk with the Lord. He not only left a wife, sisters, children, and grandchildren who I'm sure don't doubt they were loved ... he left a legacy. Tim and I want to leave that kind of legacy. I wish Tim had been able to get to know him better - but he has certainly heard plenty about him from me.

I don't have adequate words for what I'm feeling, but I know a good man is in heaven and that those of us who knew him feel his absence. I also know someday we'll join him.

Perhaps some would blame hormones for my tears, but I also feel a renewed inspiration in just what Tim and I are doing in growing our little family. We want to leave that kind of legacy, and show Shelby Hope that kind of love and kindness in hopes that she will show it to others.