Well, its over. Just like that. The uncle I've blogged about a couple of times is no more. We got the call at my parents' house this morning about 6:30 AM. Apparently, he slipped away peacefully with his wife by his side.
I was at my parents' house to take them and another of my uncles to the Nashville airport for a two-day visit to Jacksonville, FL to visit with him. The news since my visit there a couple of weeks ago had all been positive. His stamina had improved, his dependence on heavy oxygen had decreased, his voice was stronger, and he had been enjoyed additional visitors.
My mother/his sister couldn't wait to get there to see him. She's been so anxious to make the journey. My dad, however, physically couldn't do it. He recently had hip replacement surgery, and he needed a good bit of rehab before making the trip.
Against his doctor's recommendation, my dad said "I'm going." So I booked them a flight on Southwest, and they were packed and raring to go this morning.
We were literally 5 minutes away from getting in the car and my driving them to the airport. Then the call came. Immediately both my parents became obviously distraught - both at his death and the fact they didn't make it there in time. The second part hurt me more so than the expected first part.
My dad started with a round of What Ifs. What if my mother had gone to Jax without him? What if they had flown 2 days ago? What if he had postponed the surgery another six months? I'll certainly never be mistaken for a grief counselor, but I tried to assure him the What Ifs weren't necessary. Things happen for a reason - and oftentimes for reasons we'll likely never understand while on this earth.
So now, its time for next steps. I've got to get funeral flights booked, pack a suit to wear in the Florida summer sun, and acting like an adult the next few days by being attuned to the needs of my mother and my aunt.
Over Memorial Day weekend, I went to the NASCAR races in Charlotte, NC. I was so grateful to my many friends for gathering for a Hey Earl! shout-out photo. I had hoped to get the picture to him to have a good laugh and let him know yet again how much we thought of him. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get the photo to him in time.
I've lost my uncle, my friend, my mentor, and my son's namesake. The world has lost a great man, and this nation has lost a great patriot. But heaven has gained a great soul.
R.I.P. Earl Taylor Leming: January 17, 1952 - June 3, 2010