As some of you already know, my uncle, Father John Edwards S.J., was recently diagnosed with cancer of the bladder. The illness had already progressed past the point of any kind of treatment options.
He passed away quietly last night after having a chance to visit with his surviving sisters over the past few days.
Talking to my daughters about him and reading some of the letters and emails from people he had known over the past 91 years was a bit of a revelation to me. I knew in my head all these things about him - like his lute playing, or his command of so many languages - but really, until this weekend he was, you know, just Uncle John.
What I heard and read from so many people was the same characteristics mentioned over and over again. John was a kind and thoughtful man. A humble man. But mostly a truly Christ-like man.
And I have to admit, all this is true. It seems kind of stupid to say because - yeah - that's my uncle John. He's always been like that. I never saw him act in anger, I never heard him speak with hatred towards others. He really did try to emulate Christ on a daily basis. I just took this for granted.
Maybe because I knew he was a man. A man who loved my mother and his other siblings with a fierce loyalty. A man who enjoyed riding in my convertible and telling jokes about my dad. A man who liked a drink or two - but rarely more than that. He cared about the Dallas Cowboys and had strong opinions about Jerry Jones, the homeless, Aids and any number of other things. Some of these were definitely Christ-like behaviors or attitudes to have. Others did not exactly register on my idea of Jesus.
Uncle John was just too real a person for me to spend much time contemplating his divinity. I mean - his sisters spoiled him rotten. He did magic tricks at the Thanksgiving dinner table. I'm not talking about turning water into wine, or even amazing card-tricks. These were the corny tricks priests have probably been doing for the past 2000 years - finding the drachma behind your ear, making weird animals out of the cloth napkins come to life in the palm of his hand.
Anyhow, all I can say now is that I miss him. I wish my sisters and I had been better at getting him to talk about himself and his adventures than we were. Instead he wanted to listen. He didn't want to boast or complain or jostle for attention. He wanted to hear about us.