“Death steals everything except our stories,” Jim Harrison writes in the poem, Larson’s Holstein Bull.
I’m reminded of this every time someone I know dies.
On Sunday, March 23, my sister’s husband of 50 years, Robert Earl Keith, died. He was 72. Everybody in our family called him Uncle Bob because it fit him to a tee. “Uncle Bob was a riot,” our oldest son, Shane, said on learning of his death. “I always enjoyed my time with him.”
Shane recalled playing video games with Uncle Bob, eating ice cream, decorating Easter eggs and all of his jokes. “He taught me that a small jewelry box with a cotton liner, and a hole cut in the bottom, combined with a small amount of ketchup, can make for a rather convincing severed finger ‘found in the yard.’”
Uncle Bob sang like an angel, doing a heavenly rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at my wedding. Shane remembered Uncle Bob singing the same song at his wedding even though the program called for “I Held You in My Arms Just Yesterday.”
“Uncle Bob informed me he didn’t know that song, but was willing to learn it quickly,” Shane said.
Shane was quickly advised by his wife-to-be that the program was wrong. “Uncle Bob, not missing a beat and with a big smile, told me he would be glad to slip in the words I had fabricated if I wanted him to, followed by a wink. I told him to sing it ‘straight up’ and all would be well. A little trickery in a wedding program always keeps bored guests on their feet.”
As it turns out, the song Uncle Bob performed at Shane’s wedding was “Sunrise, Sunset” from the movie, Fiddler on the Roof:
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears.
With tears in our eyes, we celebrate the wonderful stories Uncle Bob leaves behind.