Manhattan 

To me, having a lot going on is much preferred over perpetual boredom. The life I live is a full one; I write, I volunteer, I mentor, I manage the family business. I practice TLC with my Service Dog, left hand man, and fur baby. I like to have a lot going on but not so much that I forget to enjoy it. I constantly seek balance as I find myself regularly readjusting my priorities. Many of my gifts involve giving to others in the emotional/spiritual sense. I live to encourage but I need to always keep in mind to fill my own cup up as well. Christ is my cornerstone and I’m honestly no good at anything without Him.

This past week I’ve been intentional about focusing on His plan and not all of mine. Nothing complex or deeply theological. I’ve simply been intentional about praying, reading the word, and listening to sermons. I’m actively seeking what God has for me. As I’m reminding myself yet again of the Lord’s endless love and all these doors are not just being opened, but flying off the hinges for me to use my gifts and talents, my Uncle passed away. So while I’m basking in the Lord’s love and choosing to rejoice over all that’s in front of me, one of the sweetest men I’ve ever known beat me to Heaven.

I had been preparing to give my first speech of the summer and getting to see my little brother graduate, and now there was a wake and funeral to attend. It was sudden and shocking even for a distant relative like me.

The grief hit me in a strange way that I really wasn’t expecting. I just saw him a month ago on his birthday and it hurts knowing that was the last time. The quick intense heartache I felt and still do, was surprising since I had all these commitments to prepare for and focus on you would think I’d be too distracted to mourn with those who mourn, maybe in a way I hoped I would be, but no matter what Uncle Joe stayed tucked into my heart. I think it’s because no matter what we do in this life, no matter who we become, people matter most.

I didn’t know him that well and we weren’t very close, but any person who always made me feel loved, always made me feel like family, even though I’m not a Cristiano, any person who-not even once-interacted with me in a way I didn’t appreciate is a person I am bound to miss. I’m feeling the void that sweet-souled man left behind. His family and friends have not left my prayers.

My little brother got his diploma, my speech went great and I wish I could’ve told him. I wish there was just one more time where the family and I could do a surprise drop by and discuss the goodness of life over food and coffee. He and his wife were always entirely welcoming. I can’t think of anyone these days who would appreciate an impromptu visit as much as they did. As a person who deeply values God and family, I find great comfort that somebody out there still has open arms with no strings attached. That kind of love, the kind of love at Uncle Joe’s house reminds me of God Himself; open arms, authentic, true. I hope he knew how much I loved him too. He and the rest of those beautiful Italians. Even though we don’t see each other often my heart swells in appreciation that I have that kind of love in my bloodline.

Everybody loved Joe. I hope to Heaven I leave a legacy like that. A legacy of love and nothing but. Even the man who prepared his body for the wake, loved him very much. I’m glad I was at the wake. I’m glad there was more joy over who he was than sadness that he’s gone. I’m glad I was there to help even if I had to fight through tears and frustration to do it. My Service Dog was more than happy to be a therapy dog for all those in the funeral home that day, not just my family, and if petting him or talking to me helped people realize Psalm 34:18, there’s no better way I could’ve spent my time.

I believe it to be true, that death is only hard on the living. I found great comfort in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, perhaps they will do the same for you. Here’s my notes for those who want to read the scriptures more fully.

The very last thing we talked about was manhattan. Not the city I love, the drink I can’t handle. See you soon Uncle Joe, all my love-J

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