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Goodbye, Uncle Darryl. And Thank You, for Everything.

Growing up, I knew I had an Aunt Judy. My Grandma Ruby told me stories about her: how she'd dress my dad up like a little girl when they were kids and other silly things. I could see her face in pictures hanging on the walls of our home, in the albums on Grandma Ruby's shelves. One time, she even sent me a real porcelain doll. I loved porcelain dolls, and, apparently, she did, too. I knew I had an Aunt Judy, but I didn't know my Aunt Judy. She lived way out in California, and, as far as I could remember, I hadn't ever met her.

Then, one day, I learned that she was coming back.

When I met my Aunt Judy, I remember thinking that she was short...just like Grandma Ruby and me. I don't think she would mind me telling you this, because it's entirely true. My Aunt Judy was also loud and boisterous. I don't think she'd mind me telling you this, either, because it's also entirely true. She laughed quickly and fully. She told jokes and shared stories, and she brought life with her when she entered a room. I love my Aunt Judy, and I can't tell you how much it's meant to me to have her in my life since she came home.

What I can tell you is that I'm not sure I would have my Aunt Judy in my life if it weren't for my Uncle Darryl.

You see, when Aunt Judy came back from California, she brought this really, really big dude with her. His name was Darryl, and he was her husband.

That's when I learned I had an Uncle Darryl.

My Uncle Darryl was tall. I mean really, really, really tall. My other uncles had to stand on the fireplace hearth to match his height. :) My Uncle Darryl was also quiet. I mean really, really, really quiet. He had the most incredible smile. It wasn't wide, from cheek to cheek. It was simple and sure, turned up just enough at the corners to let you know that he was amused. And my Uncle Darryl didn't usually laugh loudly. He normally chuckled softly with his big, hulking shoulders moving up and down just a little. My Uncle Darryl was the strong, sure foundation that allowed my Aunt Judy to be herself.

My Uncle Darryl's love for my Aunt Judy was so deep, so magnificent, that it flowed out onto her entire family. He loved my Grandma Ruby like his own mother. He helped her around the house and cared for her when she got so sick at the end. He loved my Uncle Dan like his very own brother. They fished, and they laughed, and they loved each other deeply. And, when my Uncle Dan passed away, Uncle Darryl watched after Aunt Patty exactly the way Uncle Dan would have hoped. Uncle Darryl loved my aunts and uncles, my mom and dad. Since he first drove across that Illinois border, he's been there for us. Quietly, faithfully. He served us without ever asking for recognition. He loved us without ever requiring our love in return. He loved our Judy with a profound love that healed so many of the broken places and brought her back to us. 

And it wasn't just us that he loved, obviously. He loved his children, his grandchildren, his great-grandchildren, and his friends. He quietly lived his life, serving the people around him and loving others well.

More than anything, though, my Uncle Darryl loved Jesus. Time and time again... Year after year... Moment by moment, I watched my Uncle Darryl lay down his own life for the sake of others'. Jesus said, in John 13:34 (NIV), "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another." My Uncle Darryl was absolutely a disciple of Jesus Christ...he loved others every step of the way.

Yesterday evening, my Uncle Darryl passed away. It was sudden, shocking, and completely unexpected. We are all still reeling from this great loss. I'm not sure what life will look like without him here, but I know that I'll love a little better because of the example he's given me.

Today, in honor of my Uncle Darryl, I hope you'll join me in considering 1 John 4:7-21. I hope you'll join me in looking for ways to love the people around you with a deeper, stronger love. A quiet, steady love...always ready to serve. And I hope you'll reach out to the people who love you and thank them, hug them tightly. Because we never, ever know which day will be our last.

I don't know why my Uncle Darryl was taken so early, so suddenly. But I know that I want to live and die just like him: serving and loving the people around me in Jesus' name. Amen.