My uncle Alan died last week, on April 1st, after being removed from life support. I’ve sat down to write about it several times since we got home, maybe this time I’ll actually finish…

We got a call last Saturday that he was going to be unplugged on Sunday, with as many family members who could be, and wanted to be, present. I wanted to be there to say good bye, all accounts were that the man was already gone – only the shell remained.

After discovering that flights would have cost us the better part of $1100, we hit the road Sunday morning for the drive down. We got a call from my dad just as we were crossing the OR/CA border that Alan had passed peacefully and quickly after being removed from the respirator.

Alan was one of eight children – he was my mom’s baby brother – and the only one of my mom’s siblings I really know (knew?). Alan and Amy lived near us for most of my life, and I spent a lot of time with them – holidays, parties, and for no particular reason at all. I guess that’s what people mean by “family.”

When Dawnise and I were looking for our first place together, Chino Hills had the double advantage of being vaguely centrally located to our relative commutes, but more importantly – it was close to Amy and Alan. So we rented a condo, and became neighbors. When we bought our first house, it was literally around the corner from them – and we’d invite them to dinner at their place regularly : Amy’s cat allergies prevented us from actually hosting. Dawnise came to think of Amy and Alan as the aunt and uncle she never had.

I only wish that I had been able to tell him how much he meant to me while he was still around to hear it.

The service was well attended – with much laughter during the shared remembrance. As an ER nurse, Alan touched countless lives, and many of his co-workers – and at least one former patient – came to pay their respects. Many folks took the time to share stories and memories of Alan – starting with my mom, and including myself, my aunt Dawn, Dawnise and many others.

My brother couldn’t be at the service – he’s on a 40-odd day wilderness trek through Utah – and he (and my sister) are at least as close to Amy and Alan as I am. I said a few words on his behalf – ’cause he couldn’t be there to say them – and I suspect even had he been there, he’d have had a hard time doing so.

I was told afterwards that I spoke well – but to be honest, I didn’t know what I was going to say when I walked up there, and I had little recollection of what I said when I was finished.

The centerpiece of the service was a photo montage, assembled by Shawna, Laurie, Dawnise and Christopher. I’m working on making it available online for those who couldn’t be there to see it.

My aunt Amy, in the midst of all this, managed to throw a party Alan would have attended – which is exactly what he would have wanted.

One of the songs used in the montage was Tim McGraw’s Live Like You Were Dying. When it came on the radio late Thursday night on our drive home I finally lost it, and sat sobbing in the car while Dawnise drove.

Gone, but never forgotten.