Two months ago I blogged about my Uncle Nate's review of my latest book, Counting the Cost. He called me on the phone to tell me how much he liked it, and though our conversation ranged over lots of subjects, he kept coming back to the book, wanting to talk about it some more.
I was grateful for that call, because it let me know that the things I wrote about in the book--life in rural, Depression-era New Mexico and, more particularly, the family secret that I only learned when I was middle-aged--that it rang true to someone who lived there and then. And, that it was okay to write about the secret.
I'm doubly grateful for the call, because Nathan Robert Smith died earlier this month. He would be 95 this October, and his once-powerful body was worn out. In that last phone conversation, he told me about a near-death experience he had recently and said he didn't fear death any more, but quite the contrary.
I learned about Uncle Nate's death as I paused on a remote logging road in a high pass in the mountains around Conconully, WA. I had left my cell phone on in hopes of finding service as we got higher, as the only signal in Conconully was at the cemetery. When I checked, I found I had a message from my cousin saying that her grandfather, my uncle, was gone.
I processed that information as I looked out over the scene before me, and as I thought about this good man and what he had been in my life, I reaffirmed my belief in the immortality of the soul and the eternal nature of family ties. I pictured the reunion beyond the veil and how my mother, who loved her brother dearly and never did anything by halves, would greet him.
The photo at the top of this blog has been a part of my life as long as I can remember. Uncle Nate joined the army before I was born, and this picture has always hung on a wall in my home. As time has passed, I've never had trouble reconciling the aging reality of my Uncle Nate with this handsome young image. Now, the 'aging reality' is gone, but the picture of this young Nate Smith reminds me that his features live on in my two sons, and his name is carried by a grandson.
That gives me comfort.
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