Following her death and her funeral, it seemed that a little too often I was faced with another funeral...always one right after another. One would have thought that as a child, I would become "numb" to death and to losing loved ones. Yet, I turned out quite opposite and at a very early age I learned that life is a gift and it can be taken at any moment regardless of age and that we as people must always cherish the moments that we have with one another.
Over the years, I have lost all but one of my grandparents, and at the age of almost 29 I am incredibly blessed to still have the most amazing woman ever still in my life, my Grandmother. This is the woman I would be horribly lost without and one that has always stood beside me and led me the right way in life. I have lost aunts and uncles, friends, teachers, cousins, and so many more. This past week (January 20 - three days after his 91st birthday), I lost my Great Uncle...
James Walker, my Great Uncle, lived an amazingly wonderful life, one that kept him surrounded by loved ones all the while teaching each of us the true meaning of family and holidays. He has been the backbone of our family (the Walker side) and has been one that we can each only strive to be like. He was the one that each of us learned so much from and one that has left us all with some of the most amazing memories. There is not a single reunion, holiday, or trip to Alabama that I cannot recall having Uncle James play a huge role in and leaving me feeling full of love and comfort in just being around him.
When I was younger, Uncle James and Aunt Mae (who passed away two years ago) lived in my Great Grandparents house (they passed before I was born, my dads grandparents) in Abernat, AL, where we spent many years at Christmas time celebrating surrounded by family. I have so many memories of this house and all the joy that it brought. I remember spending the night there during the summer months and waking up to Aunt Mae in the kitchen with her apron tied around her, making breakfast for everyone. Uncle James owned a store, James M Walker Grocery, that was literally in walking distance of his house, one that could be seen while standing on his property. I remember being young and full of excitement when he would walk us across the street and let us pick out a piece of candy. I can vaguely remember the smile that he would carry just to see the kids all happy.
This past Christmas I made the decision to tag along with my Aunt Jeanette and Grandmother as they made their annual Christmas. It was the first Christmas in eight years that I have been able to spend with my family, one that I will forever be grateful that I was able to spend. On the Monday after we arrived, I was able to spend awhile with Uncle James, Aunt Jeanette, and Grandmama.I was warned in the beginning that Uncle James may not remember me...yet he did. When I walked in, he looked at me for a moment, as though he was trying to place me. Like I said, it had been years. Aunt Jeanette told him my name and he said, "I know who she is. Brittney use to come to my house when she was a kid..." and he carried on from there. He remembered me. He kept me close to him while we were there, which of course I loved. It was nice to see him and spend some time with him.Yet, it also hurt because I could tell then he wasn't doing too well. I just never imagined that a month later he would be gone. While we were there spending time with him, we were able to take a picture of all of us, which I did happen to crop the photo to have one of just the two of us. I do still have the one of all four and it looks amazing!
Following a week in Atlanta, we headed back to Alabama for the Christmas reunion. There we ate dinner, played Dirty Santa and just enjoyed each others company the way a family should. Uncle James made his rounds, walking with his walker and he rested in his chair, often falling asleep. As Uncle James was getting ready to leave, I felt as though I would not be able to get in enough hugs and I feared that it would be the last time I would see him... Little did I know or even think that I would be back in Alabama the following month for his funeral. It all happened so quickly.
There is a place in me that will always feel empty with the passing of Uncle James. On January 23, 2012 we laid this amazing man to rest next to his beloved wife, Mae Walker, who passed a little over two years ago. Two days ago we smiled and we cried in reminiscence as we shared stories from the past and as we bid our farewells. I was once again reminded of how one family can hold on to one another in times of sorrow, all the while smiling in the celebration of ones long and amazing life.
My great Uncle James will always be one of the most amazing and admirable men that I've been blessed to know for all of these years.
Jesus keep me from all wrong