My great uncle George passed away last week at the age of 91. He was the last of my grandmother's siblings and with him died their family name, Daher (pronounced dare). He was a good egg.
When my grandmother was suddenly widowed and left to raise 5 young children on her own in the early 40's, Uncle George was still in the Army, where he served as a cook. Upon his discharge, he promptly arrived at my grandmother's house to do his best to lend her a hand. He thought cooking was his strong point, so he took over this duty from my grandmother for awhile so that when she came home exhausted from sewing draperies all day, cooking could be one less thing to worry about.
By mother's accounts, Uncle George wasn't as talented in the kitchen as he'd like to think, but beggars can't be choosy, so she and her siblings ate what he put before them. He ran the household like he was still in the Army and the kids were under his command. My mother's most vivid memory is of him mixing the potatoes and meat and vegetables together, at which any normal kid would turn up their nose. "Eat it! It's all going to the same place", he'd bark.
Eventually, Uncle George went back to his own home. By the time I came along, he was a seldom visitor who came on Christmas or Easter. Years later, when my grandmother was dying from lung cancer, Uncle George again came to the rescue and moved in with her and my divorced aunt who had been living with my grandmother since her marriage ended some years ago. Again he did the cooking, but he picked up a trick or two since his Army discharge and he had long age ceased mixing everything together in a porridge. Actually, he became a pretty good chef. He stayed with my aunt after my grandmother passed and when my aunt eventually became ill, he cared for her, as he had my grandmother.
Uncle George sold his house in upstate Pennsylvania and stayed in my grandmother's house. When he himself began to fail in health, my mother started cooking for him and every week, she would stop by his house a few times with care packages of food. My mother is a much better cook than Uncle George and he really looked forward to her visits but more than that, he expected nothing of anyone. He ate whatever she put in front of him as she joked "c'mon, it's all going to the same place, eat it!" On the rare occasions when she sent me in her place, he would answer the door in surprise and chastise me for thinking I had to inconvenience myself for him. He was a humble, simple servant and fiercely independent until the end.
A few weeks ago, his congestive heart failure sent him to the hospital and he was so compromised, he couldn't even go to rehab. God, in His Infinite Mercy, took Him in his sleep.
My mother is taking his death with quite a bit of sadness. "He's the last piece of my mother that I have," she cried. I reminded her he is not really the last tie to her mother, as she has been saying. Her tie to her mother is the Eucharist. If my grandmother is not in Heaven now, she will be one day, so saintly was her life. I pray Uncle George will be going to the Same Place.