Slicing across the mighty Puget Sound on a ferry made of steel you still feel small and over matched. You lose all sense of time and place. All is enshrouded in the sound. It doesn’t overwhelm, it doesn’t need to. It is. Therefore you are as well.
Moving stately across the waters, whilst seagulls pace us in mid air and veritable walls of towering pines flank me I am not saddened that my beloved uncle Chuck’s funeral was yesterday but instead enpeacened. Don’t try to tell me that’s not a word. I’m on a ferry in Puget Sound. Trust me, it’s a word.
My Uncle Chuck has been in my life since before I had a life. To me he doesnt’ have a beginning nor and end. He is and always has been Uncle Chuck. It’s a selfishly, slavishly me devoted idea that a man who literally changed the very fabric of everyone around him is somehow relegated to being my Uncle Chuck.
Too bad, this is my story and he’s my Uncle Chuck. Get your own if you want a different story.
Out of all the people in my life he is the one who most completely represents the Pacific Northwest to me. The depth of nature, the power of the Sound, the cleanse of the rain. And nothing in this wonderland of natural glory more IS Uncle Chuck than this Puget Sound upon which I so blithely ride my iron sleigh.
If you look down upon the surface of the Sound you see wavelets and water. If you look out to each side you see rolling knolls of tree covered islands and shores. If you are not careful you can easily be fooled into thinking that what you see is all placid and simple.
But if you close your eyes and simply let it speak to you. You will know beyond a shadow of doubt that the Sound has a sonorously deep timbered voice that fills you with it’s song.
The power of depth. Of deep, deep waters resting upon a bedrock that is immovable. Yet unreasonably inviting and reassuring.
My Uncle Chuck was the opposite of a cold, aloof figure. He was the embodiment of being human. He was powerful warmth, deep faith, inexorable quality and boundless laughter and smiles. He held more of all the things we hold dear than most of us can hope to.
And today, on this circle of a round trip ferry journey I am reminded of who he really was and realize that he is not dead, he is not gone. Because you can’t kill someone that alive and deeply good.
And wonderfully enough I am also reminded of my Dad Fred who resembles my Uncle Chuck in so many amazing ways. He may not have been my biological father, but he is more my Father in every way that matters most. I am also reminded of all the men in my life who have contributed great and small to forming who I am. I have a long way to go but that’s what journeys are. I got to have two dads and two moms where other unlucky people only get one.
Life is short and remarkably fleeting. Sometimes you need a death, a circular ferry ride and a bit of reflection to realize that it is also remarkably full, bountifully joyous and wonderfully blessed.
I don’t miss you Uncle Chuck. Because I have you still. I love you and thank you for being true and big and you. And instead of crying my eyes out into the Sound, I am riding it with my head held high because I knew you and loved you. And that is good.
Here is the eulogy I spoke at his memorial celebration. It brings him to life for me.
My daughter Emme Luna when I told her I was coming up to uncle Chucks funeral told me to “Say Hi to him”
I said, He’s dead Emme.
She said “Duh Dad I know, say HI to him for me anyway cause he was awesome.”
So Hi Uncle Chuck!!! Emme loves you.
Marshmallows may very well have defined my Uncle Chuck. At least to me.
Some of my strongest associations of my uncle are around marshmallows.
Not Marsh mellOWWS.
Uncle Chuck knew the proper way to say it was marshmAAllow.
I remember dozens of times sitting around a fire watching in awe as he coaxed forth the most amazingly perfect toasted marshmallows.
Now some of you may think that you roast marshmallows just fine. I am here to tell you in Uncle Chucks stead that you in fact know nothing at all of the immaculate art of perfect marshmallow toasting.
My Uncle Chuck seemed to do everything well. But I feel that his marshmallow roasting prowess might have been the purest window into his awesome soul.
Let me tell you about my Uncle Chucks toasted marshmallows.
First of all they were perfect. Always. Everytime.
Every one was perfectly, evenly toasted to a golden brown on all six sides.
Yes a marshmallow has six sides.
My Uncle Chuck knew this. That’s why he is so awesome.
I do not remember him ever burning a single marshmallow. Not one. No flaming missiles of sticky doom, no blackened char, no dropped mallows in the coal. Only golden delight.
And inside that perfectly golden brown crust of carmelized sugar was the most crazy, gooey, melted soft heart of goodness.
His marshmallows always left you craving more. But Uncle Chuck would not succumb to pressure. He would lecture us about patience, timing, attention to detail and staying focused on your goals. All while toasting another perfectly cooked, awesomely sweet marshmallow.
I still haven’t learned most of those things he so perfectly embodied.
But I did learn almost everything good about being a truly kick ass person from him and his damn perfect marshmallows.
I love you Uncle Chuck! And Emme Luna says HI!