As I type this, my Uncle Jim is resting comfortably with family surrounding him with love. While I know there is not a darn thing I could do for any one of them, selfishly my heart is sad. I just want to be there to grieve with them. It’s hard to live away.

This weekend, when I found out he was so very sick we were at a farm in the mountains with friends. I told Mom how much he would love it. There were horses and barns and hay everywhere. I even caught this horse selfie for her show him.

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This was my friend, Khali. I’m not for sure that was her name. I saw some names on the stalls and it was my favorite. She is young and a little grumpy but she happily posed for my picture. 

When I was little, one of my favorite things was to sneak off to Uncle Jim’s barn with my Dee-di. Oh my word, thinking back now, I don’t know why they didn’t stick my in a stall in that barn and lock me up. I would bounce around, look for the barn cats, talk to the horses and myself. (I was an odd child. I talked to myself a lot. Apparently I still do. That’s basically a blog…) Anyway, when Uncle Jim would start to train the rule was I had to sit still on the bench in the middle of the barn while he walked the horse. That was HARD! I still loved every second.

One winter night, a new horse that needed to be broken arrived at the barn. Dee was headed out and he let me sneak out with him. Who knows why… Anyway, training stopped and Dee and Uncle Jim were talking about the new horse and I worked my way around that barn talking to every last one of them. I got to the new one, stopped and started my yammering. I was so excited. I yelled for Dee and Uncle Jim to come look. I got the horse to smile! Ahem…nope. It was baring its teeth at me. They hee hawed forever over me making the horse mad as a hornet’s nest. 

My Uncle Jim is a good man. He’s quiet but he easily grins. He has that Wheeler belly shake when he laughs too hard. He tolerated us coming to swim in his pool, beg to ride his horses and feed cows without batting an eye. There are a couple of stories about Uncle Jim that I want to tell you. His heart was huge but he was so quiet about it, you’d never know. When Arleigh and Hanan were little I took them to meet his new dog, Minnie. He was fussing and hollering about what a pain in the butt that dog was as she sat right in his lap. He doesn’t talk much but he did that day about how hard it was to have a little dog. I told him I had an answer. The girls had been wanting a dog and I’d just take Minnie home with me. He looked at me with his huge grin and said, “Well, I don’t know about that now. I think she might need to stay right here.”  He loves every animal, small as a tiny toy dog to as big as a horse. 

I don’t personally remember this story, but it’s been told me approximately 406,789 times… when I was little, I apparently was under everyone’s feet. My Gran was my primary babysitter and she kept me at the feed mill that my grandfather and Uncle Jim ran more often than not. At some point, Uncle Jim was pretty busy and left without addressing me. If you didn’t realize this by now, the world sort of revolves around me. I may or may not have stomped a foot and said, “But Ummpy Jim didn’t say me bye!” From that point on he’s always said “Bye Brandi Shaye! I’ll be seeing you later.” 

This was the last time I saw Uncle Jim. 

He’s right there in the middle of my big crazy family. When he left I got my “Bye Brandi Shaye!” I told him we’d be back spring break. When we got home to Virginia we started talking about the possibility of moving back. Tonight, I’m feeling a little cheated that he won’t be sitting in his chair when I go back. I want to stomp my foot and say “Ummpy Jim didn’t say me bye!” 

I can picture Gran’s bare feet running around a kitchen making coconut cake getting ready for his arrival. I’m so grateful for our faith of knowing I will see him again. He told a good friend a couple of days ago, “It’s fine. I’ll either meet you here or at the mausoleum.” There is going to be one great big party some day.