Happy Thanksgiving everyone! This was our first Thanksgiving at home and we cooked a feast!
Last year on Thanksgiving Day our family received the sad news that my uncle (also Siena’s Godfather) had passed away. He was 49. I owe much of who I am today to my Uncle Patrick’s active role in my formative years. I was also named after him.
Little Red Hen and I returned to California with our one-month-old baby to attend his funeral service, a beautiful Latin Requiem Mass. Even though she didn’t understand the concept of death, Siena was able to see her Godfather for the first time and say goodbye in her own way. She also brought hope and smiles to our grieving family. We later flew to Colorado to attend his burial. Patrick finally returned home.
While Thanksgiving Day will always be tainted by this sad event, I do have much to be thankful for – such as my uncle’s influence on me, his support and his example.
I wrote the eulogy for his funeral program and I would like to share that with you:
Patrick was well known for his love of the rugged wilderness. It was here that he ventured as a young man and longed to revisit as an adult. It was here that he felt the closest to God and the most in touch with himself. Patrick was a student of American history, learning the forgotten ways of the Native Americans and survival techniques used by the early fur traders. However, just reading about these remarkable times never satisfied him. He lived his passion and used his immense knowledge of wilderness survival to venture into the mountains with a rifle and a few basic tools. In an act that would have left many frozen and starving on the mountainside, Patrick was at one with the wilderness and returned to civilization at the time of his choosing. Hunting, fishing, and exploring the Rocky Mountains are among his fondest memories, in solitude and with those he loved. The unexplored and wild reaches of our nation’s backcountry, he often remarked, was a perfect reflection of God’s majesty.
Patrick’s Roman Catholic faith was as solid as the Rocky Mountains he loved. His trust in our Lord and His Church was unwavering. From this solid foundation, he derived great strength that he drew upon throughout his life. This inner strength was reflected outward in the form of uncompromising integrity, trustworthiness, and a compassionate demeanor. These attributes echoed in everything he did, from his personal relationships to his business activities. Like his father, he was known as a man of honor who commanded respect.
Perhaps it was Patrick’s inner strength that formed a beacon of hope for so many whose lives he touched. Perhaps it was his jolly sense of humor or his limitless stories about mountain expeditions that so entranced family and friends. Whatever the reason, he was immensely likable. All those who interacted with Patrick learned about themselves in the process. Children and adults alike found their sense of adventure as he conveyed in dramatic prose his many exploits. Wayward souls found in Patrick a well of strength, a role model, and a guiding light. His life experience and great wisdom were gifts he imparted onto his friends and anyone who sought advice or needed help. His family was infinitely blessed by his kindness, love and support, knowing that they could count on him to make time for their needs. Fulfilling a promise to his father, he spent his final days caring for his beloved mother, always her guardian. Patrick was a gift to us all.
Patrick lived his life for others, often at the expense of pursuing his own dreams. He frequently spoke of his desire to return to the mountains and build a cabin on a few acres of his own. He is there now, camping on a rugged moonlit peak with his outfitters tent and a blazing fire. He is looking down on us with a smile. His spirit and his memory are that of a grizzly bear: strong and enduring. He will be sorely missed.
Rest in Peace Uncle Pat.
Grandma Betty bought Siena a bib that says My Little Turkey, partly because my Aunt R used to call us “little turkeys” as kids. My sister J spent the day with us the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and took some photos of Siena in that bib and an orange dress…which I *thought* would be her Thanksgiving outfit.
Then on Wednesday a package arrived from my friend Tricia and it included a different turkey bib, a Thanksgiving sleeper, plus a rubber duckie dressed like a pilgrim! When Thursday came, both bibs came in handy and the outfit was a hit!